Frank Black / Aug. 13, 2006 / Indianapolis (Birdy's)
Not many musicians would go out on tour a month after releasing a double album of new material and proceed to play a 26-song set with only one track representing the latest record. But nobody ever saiNot many musicians would go out on tour a month after releasing a double album of new material and proceed to play a 26-song set with only one track representing the latest record. But nobody ever said Frank Black was an average musician.
The man is living out quite a multi-tasking life 20 years into his rock'n'roll career, spending part of his time fronting his first band the Pixies on a two-year reunion world tour and the other part being solo Frank Black, a persona within which he also exhibits astounding variety. Most recently, Black released "Fastman Raiderman," a 27-song double album recorded with Nashville session musicians and a passel of rock greats in fits and starts between Pixies tours. The set revels in Black's latest fascination with old-timey Americana, resulting in his countriest/rootsiest music to date. But of course it's also filtered through his unique and lovably arcane lyrical style.
Yet those who might expect Black's latest tour -- his first real solo outing since 2003 -- to focus on or even reflect the mood of the new songs would have been surprised to see his Aug. 13 set at Birdy's nightclub on the north side of Indianapolis. Sartorially attired in khakis and a white button-down, an impressively professional Frank serenaded the 200-strong crowd with music from throughout his career, drawing cheers from different spots in the audience with each chestnut.
He opened with "Los Angeles," the first cut from his 1993 eponymous solo debut, and the first of three songs from that record he would play during the evening. Certainly a bit of the musical nuance of the recorded versions of Frank's songs is lost in the translation into a solo acoustic setting. But with just guitar and vocals, the essence of his songwriting is clarified, and additionally, his stellar voice really gets the spotlight.
The man knows how to sing, and yell, in tune, and when he stretched to get into the raucous portions of "Billy Radcliffe" or the Pixies tune "Cactus," the rapt audience had to muse that here is a guy whose volume has been recently practiced at 5,000-capacity venues at Pixies shows, and it's no less visceral in this tiny, smokey club. Or perhaps it's that much more visceral, given that a song like "The Swimmer," from 2001's "Dog in the Sand," just wouldn't work in a stadium setting as well as it might when fans can stand 10 feet from Frank and watch as he closes his eyes and hits the high notes in the chorus.
Also receiving great adulation were a trio of songs from 2003's "Show Me Your Tears" -- "Horrible Day," "Goodbye Lorraine" and "Massif Centrale" -- and an intense a cappella version of the Larry Norman song "Six-Sixty-Six." After an aborted encore try at the Elvis tune "Song of the Shrimp" (dismissed with a "f**k that song"), Black re-energized the crowd with a couple of older solo numbers, "Old Black Dawning" from his debut and the 1994 cut "(I Wanna Live On An) Abstract Plain." He then went back to the well to finish "Song of the Shrimp" properly and then walked out into the cool August night, bald pate glistening with sweat and a club full of smiling fans behind him.
Here is Frank Black's set list:
"I'll Be Blue"
"The Holiday Song"
"Dead Man's Curve"
"I'm Not Dead (I'm In Pittsburgh)"
"Wave Of Mutilation"
"Living On Soul"
"Sing For Joy"
"Song of the Shrimp"
"Old Black Dawning"
"I Burn Today"
"(I Wanna Live On An) Abstract Plain"
"Back To Rome"
"Song Of The Shrimp"