Artist: Black Francis
Date: 12th Febuary 2008
Venue: Manchester Academy 2
Rating: * * * *
Touring Europe to promote last year’s concept album Bluefinger and his new EP Svn Fngrs, Black Francis decided it might be nice to treat each city to a precore – like an encore but before the show, consisting of a few acoustic songs on the street near the venue. Unfortunately, I missed his one on Oxford Road, but rumour has it he played fan favourite ‘Wave of Mutilation’ from his former band The Pixies. This was a nice gesture to his followers, especially since once he got on stage with the band, there was no harking back to his Pixies days, or even for that matter his Frank Black days. Most of the show was, as he called it, a rock opera, playing almost all of Bluefinger, and chatting between songs about its hero Herman Brood. The last third was devoted to the new EP with a couple of obscure covers thrown in for fun. There’s no doubt Black had an agenda, and while he empathised with the crowd’s requests for some classics – he admitted he was one of those guys at a van Morrison concert shouting for Brown Eyed Girl – he also had albums to sell. So he concluded that, ‘….like van Morrison I’m a fucking fat bastard, so I’m not gonna play it’.
That being said he played some great music very well, and did justice to his reversion to his old stage name, if only by roaring through ‘Threshold Apprehension’ like no-one else could. ‘Test Pilot Blues’ and ‘Tight Black Rubber’ hit the spot very nicely, and new songs like ‘I Sent Away’ sounded pretty good too. His band was tight and the songs were exciting, but it’s his voice that really makes his music stand out. Whether he was thundering out the heavy songs or softly hitting the occasional forlorn note, you couldn’t help but be in awe of the big man.
The set was a little short, and a lot of people felt short-changed by the absence of almost 20 years-worth of classics to sing along to, but it was a still brilliant, full-on performance It was a privilege just to enjoy such a powerful presence commanding the crowd and doing what he does best.