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:: Frank Black :: (and The Catholics) ::
01 October 2003 / Academy 1 / Manchester
By Gerard Thompson

Whether you consider Frank Black as the ultimate godfather of alt rock or conversely, just a fat bloke who yells a lot, it would be neigh on impossible to argue that his impact on modern guitar music was anything less than pivotal. Even with a mixed bag of solo material, some being supremely satiating and some simply frustrating, any of appearance of Black Francis is going to have many teetering in anticipation.

Tonight Frank doesn’t disappoint but he doesn’t singe the senses with a back draft of verve. Kicking off with Pixies track, “Velouria”, he then proceeds to go through his solo back catalogue, mixing old and new. However, there’s an inscrutable, pissing on your chips selection procedure. Half of the old stuff is comprised of lesser tracks from less revered albums like from “Pisterlolo” and “Suffering”. The choice “I Love Your Brain” is rather perplexing. “All my Ghosts” from “The Dog in the Sand” material is welcomed with greater warmth but seemingly more focused towards the diehard.

Unsurprisingly brand spankers material also puts in an appearance. Tracks from “Black Letter Days” and “Show Me Your Tears” which could be about the breakup of his marriage showcase something of mournful and bitter side, particularly “Cold Heart of Stone”, “Jane Queen of Love” and “This Old Heart Ache”. For long time fan of his earlier output, there was “Headache” and “Abstract Plain”. Personally, I couldn’t help but feel that these two were not enough. Anything from “Teenager of the Year” would have had its perfect moment here. Perhaps in the usually unpredictable world of Frank he offers up “Dirty Old Town”, perhaps as a local tribute and his own “The Swimmer” before soaking up the applause and leaving, early.

Ultimately, tonight was enough although nowhere near the standard of his previous shows two years ago. I felt that there were stronger tunes to pull out than anything from Pisterelo. “California Bound” and “New House of the Pope” were nice touches, but if he was on that trip, where was “End of Miles”? This show was unlikely to have gained Frank any new fans, as perhaps justice was not quite served. With no encore to speak of whatsoever, the feeling of being shortchanged hung ever so slightly in the air. At stages you definitely saw scintillating signs of the warped spleen emissions that the 90s grew to love. Guitarist Rich Gilbert unconditionally rocked despite an uncanny resemblance to your science teacher. However while tonight Frank was good, really good there was too much missing for it to be anything more. I felt that anything that was less than mind-blowing was in some way going to disappoint.

Frank Black Website

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