Audio – 20/11

In recent years ex-Hold Steady and World Inferno Friendship Society member Franz Nicolay has taken to the road, travelling far and wide. He’s an old fashioned troubadour; a travelling bard with a backpack of great stories and an arsenal of full-throated choruses drawn liberally from his four albums to date.

franz

First however, Turtle Lamone, The Barents Sea and The Cut-Ups get their moment in the spotlight. All of tonight’s support bands share the blue-collar lineage that runs from Springsteen through to Gaslight Anthem and Franz Nicolay’s old crew The Hold Steady.

Openers Turtle Lamone are a little rough around the edges but it’s their first show together so the audience seems willing to cut them some slack whilst Perth-based rockers The Barents Sea put on a confident show with echoes of The Replacements. The twin guitars offer some potential but the vocals rarely carry a tune to its maximum potential.

All the way from that bastion of rock n’ roll, Essex, the Cut-Ups are joined by Franz Nicolay himself on enjoyably haphazard keyboards. Inspired by the DIY attitude of The Clash and Fugazi, they play four chord rock with a social conscience and bright clear vocals reminiscent of Against Me or The Gaslight Anthem.

After a brief break The Cut-Ups return to the stage, this time with Franz front and centre. Opening with the backstreet Bruce Springsteen of ‘Hearts of Boston’, he’s an entertaining minstrel as much for his witty banter as his whip-smart tales from the road. Despite the universally high quality of the songs on offer the most startling moments of the night are the spontaneous ones; a rambling introduction to ‘Marfa Lights’ that captures the distance and mundanity of rural America and an encore in which he encourages the audience to shout out requests.

His most recent album Do the Struggle is also probably his best to date so it’s fitting that several of its finest moments are visited here, with a shamanistic version of ‘The Migration of the Cuckoo’ an undoubted highlight. Likewise ‘Frankie Stubbs’ Tears’ is also excellent but it’s a winding solo take the title track that really brings the house down. The surroundings may be unspectacular but Franz Nicolay beings real heart and soul to what he does and tonight he’s a consummate entertainer.

[Max Sefton]

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