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NEVER AT A STANDSTILL
:: Fear Of Music :: Liam Frost ::
21 September 2006 / Academy 2 / Manchester
By Lauren Strain

Fear of Music are probably hacked off to death with people going on about how very young they are; but I’m going to mention it anyway, so NER. Clearly a band with chutchy-faced promise and a startling amount of confidence for their age (I’m pretty sure I was reading a book in the corner of the lounge and quietly eating tea at that part of life, with the odd wind band performance on second flute at the termly parents’ evening thrown in) and a burgeoning local reputation with the city at their feet, they’ll soon get past the ploddy, off-note ones and kick out more of the keyboard-led bangers where Ali Esmaail conks his head about and blasts his voice like a foghorn.

Liam Frost, in suit and new brogues, of which he is very proud, bounds, quite literally, onto stage in a shock of blustering smiles beneath hedgehog hair and throws himself – again, rather literally – into album opener ‘The City Is At Standstill’. We couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s brass shoved up against microphones, blasting the room with kisses of warm, grandiose fanfare to herald the arrival of our twenty-something darling. There are drums banged from every direction, all-round funny man and multi-instrumentalist Pete stood in bowler hat, knees crouched, whacking a snare with triumphant happiness and OOMPH. Keyboards twirl and twinkle as Liam’s acoustic is smacked with vigour and strummed like the world’s about to end, as he attempts to create a mosh pit by chucking a prized harmonica into the crowd and as he cracks endearing, winky-eyed jokes.

What’s so impressive about this boy is the energy and play-it-like-your-next-breath-depends-on-it attitude that bolsters and emboldens his already-beautiful songs. They’d be wonderful enough on their own, but no. What were pensive and billowing yet understated, measured ballads on the record, ‘Show Me How The Spectres Dance’, flower into jubilant, loud celebrations. What were (and still are) gorgeous melodies you’d slip on as the evening drew to a close, the sky darkened outside the iced windows and you pressed your face against the cold glass to peek through the blackness before pulling the curtains and curling up in their folds, transform into rousing, beginning-of-the-day singalongs. Fresh-faced, like the whipping winter wind whirled with the last days of autumn sun on your skin. Glorious and soaring, with every instrument heartily booming and blooming, overlapping and weaving, then always reaching the choruses in unison. And oh, the choruses. He knows how to carve them, out of golden horizons and glittering blue streams and the grey majesty of Manchester’s skyline.

That’s not to say that, live, he doesn’t indulge the calmer, reflective moments. Just as he takes any hint of sunrise on the album and boosts it into an all-out onstage firework display, so those moments of melancholy, hurt and thought, are too given the full treatment. The band departs, and Liam sits alone, in navy blue light, at a tiny stool, playing lap guitar. The panorama closes in, and all eyes are on the one man, his expressionful face and the tiptoeing lyrics encapsulating frustration, appreciation and all that makes life worth living AND despairing of. There’s an atmosphere of reverie and respect; utter silence and whispers. When he plucks the opening notes of Nick Cave’s alarmingly concise ‘Are You The One I’ve Been Waiting For?’ – “O we will know, won't we? / The stars will explode in the sky / O but they don't, do they? / Stars have their moment and then they die” – a lady next to me cries out before quickly covering her mouth with her hand. And time? Well, it stood still.


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Liam Frost
Fear Of Music

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