Originally, The Franks were meant to play downstairs in the main part of the Islington Academy. Had they done so, it would have been support act and labelmates Hybrasil’s biggest London gig to date. Then along came The Magic Numbers, sponsored by a radio station and backed by a major, and The Franks were shunted upstairs to the Bar Academy.
This long room can be a challenge for opening acts. There is a large space in front of the stage before the galley-style bar area, and Hybrasil were to be first act on at something like 6:30pm. Unfortunately for John “Spud” Murphy and his energetic band, such a start time inevitably means a somewhat less than full house, and for the bulk of their set the boys played to a wide open space.
Such a dispiriting state of affairs might have led most acts to wonder if there was any point. But Hybrasil’s songs ride over whatever’s in front of them, and before too long the band looked like they were enjoying themselves. The rhythmfest that is Hy Fy closed the set with a flurry of drumsticks, blocks, electric drums and a beat impossible to ignore.
Richy and Fruity from Carter USM, complete with iPod shuffle, were the incongruous second band on. Going by the name iDou, they were noisily guitar-led but not what we’d come to see, and there were no obvious melodic hooks to spark interest.
The Franks’ current set seems designed to be the crowd pleaser to beat all crowd pleasers. New material is concentrated at the beginning, giving way to a whole slew of live treats like Michael, Fashion Crisis Hits New York, Colours, How Can I Exist? and Indian Ocean before long.
The three-piece that had set the Borderline alight in November was joined by a keyboard player, and new guitarist Kevin now seems confident in his role, chain-smoking throughout and joining in with the banter. Without a set list the names of the new songs eluded me, but they suggest The Franks are mining their pre-synths period for inspiration. The now packed mosh pit, drenched in sweat, certainly approved.
Funky Cold Medina closed the set in anarchic style. Will this ever be a single, or remain the best rock cover never to make it to the format? It’s unstoppable live, and the audience were as responsive as always.
Maybe it was the venue, maybe the second support band, maybe that the gig opened and closed so early, but as the end arrived and the evening’s club crowd ambled in as we ambled out, it all seemed a little odd. Nothing against the Magic Numbers, but The Franks were well capable of raising the main venue’s roof. It’s high time they were treated with the respect they deserve.