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Roddy Frame - Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 22/05/14

23 May 2014, 14:30 | Written by Michael James Hall

After a few years away from recording, former Aztec Camera leader Roddy Frame returned this year with the masterful Seven Dials an album overflowing with subtle, smart pop songs, glorious melodies and, on the odd occasion, that tender melancholy Frame channels so well.

Tonight Frame returns to London for his first show since last winter’s High Land Hard Rain performances, a set of well-received gigs that revisited Aztec Camera’s beloved 1983 debut. There’s plenty of revisiting going on tonight too as Frame and his four-piece backing band (including a guitarist that’s a ringer for, well, all of Def Leppard) deftly negotiate a career that spans four decades.

Frame is in high spirits, wickedly noting how watching the London riots on TV had given him as “an old punk” a “warm, nostalgic glow” and encouraging those who talked loudly over his between song reminiscences to “just relax and hear a few of my tales”. Frame is buoyant, smiling as he rocks through aging beauties like “Walk Out to Winter”, gobsmacking pop like “Oblivious” and a stunning sing-along solo acoustic “Killermont Street”.

From the often overlooked Stray we get the sad, eminently tuneful “The Crying Scene” and from the maligned Frestonia we get a sweet and moving piano backed performance of “On The Avenue” that melts hearts at a couple of hundred feet. Pulling out lesser known gems like this for a group of fans who go as wild for new album tracks like the stunning opener and single “Forty Days of Rain” as they do for classics like “Down The Dip” is generous but also shows faith – Frame gets his crowd, and understands that they know his work inside out. This camaraderie reaches its peak when Frame pulls out a solo version of “Mattress of Wire”, which had been requested on Twitter. When the requester makes himself known, Roddy charmingly states “This one’s for you, Craig”.

A rambunctious burst of “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding” reassures us that Frame’s old obsessions haven’t yet left him and his dazzling guitar solos are that rare thing – interesting.

When Frame asks “Are you ready for this?” and those processed horns kick in for “Somewhere In My Heart” the place goes up. As it should. One of the greatest moments in modern pop history being dusted off and shined up before our very eyes. Of course, it’s perfect.

Later as the second encore ends with the rock n’ roll of High Land… highlight “Back On Board” we’re left with the impression of a consummate songwriter, a great performer, and one that truly cares about his dedicated fanbase. Regardless of how things go at the Scottish Independence Referendum, the man’s a national treasure.

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