Tuesday, 25 May 2010

486 FRANK BLACK AND THE CATHOLICS, Oxford Zodiac, Monday 19 February 2001

Ady got me as last pick-up, so piled in the already full car and off we did trot to Oxford, thankfully avoiding the pea-souper fog of yesterday. Parked up in a double-yellow lay-by opposite the venue - Ady does like to take risks! This gig was a sell-out, but Rachel had sorted tix on the door. In through an odd route - the bottom bar - and for a brief second I thought the gig was there! Weird! Soon sussed it out and scooted upstairs to the venue proper and to the bar, passing the mixing desk on the way and noting tonight's running times - no support, and Frank due on in 10 minutes (8.30) and due to play for 2 hours!

Just time to get the round in before Frank and the band took the stage, so we snuck through to a good vantage point at the front, stage right, as the big guy eased into this set with a few slow numbers ("I'm in a slow mood, but don't worry, we've got louder and faster numbers on the way...") Actually, Frank was obviously in a nostalgic mood tonight, because 5 numbers in, we had the first of a smattering of Pixies numbers, "Gouge Away", whose slow-burning rhythm nevertheless got a serious jumping moshpit going. Then, an incredible "Monkey Gone To Heaven", possibly The Pixies' sexiest, sleaziest and best-known moment, really fired the crowd up and sucked me into the jumping melee. As I said to Rachel immediately after, "from now on (until the end of the set), anything is possible!"

Thence followed a cracking selection of Sir Rockaby's finest, most enduring moments, laid down in an incredibly scorched-earth incendiary manner by a brilliantly tuned-in band. An incredible "All My Ghosts", the sleazy grunge shapes of "Los Angeles", a bounce-along "Mr. Grieves", a frantic "Nimrod's Son" featuring the crowd rapturously screaming, "you are the son of a Mother-fuckerrrr!!!", an excellent "Fu Manchu" and the hillbilly rock of "Robert Onion", the new single. The hits just kept on rolling! Interspersed with these better known numbers were selections from new CD "Dog In The Sand", a slightly more countrified (nice bit of pedal steel here and there) but no less rocking record, featuring Frank's usual tales of Americana's sleazy underbelly. And all this was played with such vim, venom, passion and intensity that I could, just from the corner of my eye, catch Frank and bassist David McCaffrey and imagine I was watching Jed and Ed from The Gravel Pit!

The final denouement came as Frank struck up a familiar sounding riff on the guitar, and the entire audience appeared to reply with an eerie "Oooh oooh", denoting the Pixies' epic "Where Is My Mind"! Sure enough, they played a blistering version, and at the end, the band were line astern at the front of the stage, soaking up the rapturous reception. Two hours it surely was, yet it seemed like less than half that. A fun encore as well - Frank came back to a standing ovation, then demanded that the house lights be switched on so he could take a good look at the crowd! This duly happened, and kind of gave the impression of dancing in a 70's youth club! Frank and the Catholics then raced through a couple of encores, finishing with, "A Brian Ferry number" according to Frank (not one I recognised, though), to conclude a 2 1/4 hour performance! The Big Man hit the spot more often than not tonight; a superb show!

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