Frankie & The Heartstrings; The Duchess, 13/11/13
“We sell T-shirts, Drugs…Coffee.” Front man and cocktail enthusiast, Frankie Francis joked to an appreciative crowd. “No really – we’ve made our own coffee.” Francis’ unusual stage presence reeks of boyish charm and self-assurance, his skinny jeans pushed to their limits by his interestingly effeminate dancing and a slightly destructive rock and roll edge: knocking over mic stands and dislodging amps.
The audience trickled in for support act IC1s who played a short but competent set. Singer Daniel Coburn seemed to fancy himself as an honorary Gallagher brother, donning an imitation hair-do and paisley scarf. Their Libertines-esque sound was received well by the crowd with new single ‘Beautiful Ugly’ and ‘Backchat’ managing to get a less than enthusiastic crowd up and dancing. Vocalist Conor Hiron’s brassy accent and quirky, playful lyrics in ‘Deborah’ were reminiscent of the Courteeners’ St. Jude Era. New song ‘Flowerbeds’ showcased bassist Kai West’s talents.
The crowd remained disappointingly small for Frankie & The Heartstrings. Undeterred, Francis commanded the stage as if performing to an audience of millions. In the words of Littlemores’ Conor Hiron, they really came across as “nice guys, good at what they do.” It’s a shame not more people turned out to see this. Before the 2012 single ‘I Still Follow You’, Francis asked for the snare to be turned up, and added “also I would like to hear more of my voice,” something only someone with his level of suave charm could get away with. ‘I Still Follow You’ definitely got the crowd moving and showed off drummer Dave Harper’s relentless efforts.
Crowd pleaser, ‘Possibilities’ from their debut 2011 album Hunger exploded energetically onto the stage in a mist of dry ice. Francis’ broad Sunderland accent was clearly audible, and hailing from the North East myself, this was a personal highlight. Francis took time between songs to mention the band’s recent venture into record/coffee shop owning, and implored the audience to keep vinyl alive. Guitarist Michael McKnight performed a skilled solo in ‘Photograph’, and ‘Ungrateful’ got an unexpected cheer from the fairly muted audience in its intro. ‘That Girl, That Scene’ demonstrated early Vaccines style angst ridden lyricism, and 2011 single ‘Hunger’ ended the show on a high, with the majority of the audience singing along.
There was no question of an encore as Francis immediately jumped down to the merchandise stand after their final song. I overheard one disgruntled customer complaining that £15 was a bit steep for a t-shirt, his friend comforted him, “well, they do look like fruit of the loom, at least you know its quality.”