There are times watching The Frames play live that State is reminded of that old Sean Hughes gag about two journalists discussing their pint at the bar, with one describing it as “triumphant” and the other “a tour de force”. The Frames may be two decades on the go, but at their best, they still induce goosebumps like practically no other live act on the planet, forcing hacks to reach for the thesaurus, as the superlatives stand to attention on the back of our necks.
Watching Glen Hansard’s tendons trying to burst out of his neck during a frenetic ‘Finally’, you could be forgiven for thinking that these are new kids on the indie block, instead of a band with six albums and a lot of miles on the clock – the sight of the ageless Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Joe Doyle only compounds the illusion (surely these guys have portraits hidden in their attics). The truth is that even after 20 years, The Frames still play every gig as if they have something to prove – going through the motions is not an option. Squint during the masterful ‘Pavement Tune’ and it could be 2000 all over again.
The one big difference between The Frames circa 2010 and a decade ago, however, is in the nuances. Touring with The Swell Season has added a new dynamic to the live show, with subtlety as important as the bombast and bluster of yesteryear. This is evident from the off, as a gorgeous take on ‘Headlong’ travels the road from minimalist to crashing crescendo.
What’s also clear early on is that the quartet (with the addition of Graham Hopkins on drums and Karl Odlum on banjo, bass and vibes) love being on stage together as The Frames: from Hansard and Bochnik’s duelling guitars, to Doyle’s interpretation of dEus’ ‘Hotelounge’, this is the sight and sound of a band clearly enjoying themselves.
Highlights include a hilarious proto-punk take on ‘Lay Me Down’, a soaring ‘Santa Maria’ and a monumental take on ‘Fitzcarraldo’. They even manage one new song, with Doyle taking on lead vocal duties for the countrified ‘You Can’t Hide Your Love’, complete with a Neil Young-esque guitar solo from Bochnik.
On their night, The Frames seem like the most important band in the world. This is one of those nights.
Photos: Kieran Frost.