THE FRAMES + Mark Geary @ Cabaret La Tulipe

By Emilie - The Treefrog - 03/03/2005

I went to see The Frames at Cabaret La Tulipe, an old theatre that makes a very good venue in terms of sound and general ambiance. I had seen The Frames open for Calexico a year or two ago, and I had been impressed by the energy they had on stage. I listened to their live album to learn more about them and despite their similarities to British rock-pop bands like Coldplay and early Radiohead, I grew fond of their songs. The Frames became one of my guilty pleasures and I was looking forward to seeing their live set again.

Opener Mark Geary had solid acoustic ballads, but was getting more success with the audience as a stand-up act, peppering his set with jokes and banter. He did catch my attention when he would use a sampler during his last song to create the different guitar layers of that track. I had also seen singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur do this live, and have always been impressed by the concept.

The Frames finally hit the stage, beginning slowly with a moody song. The band seemed a little stiff on stage, which disappointed me since I remembered them being much more interesting live. Fortunately, after a few songs, the band got more and more energetic. When they started playing their popular song "Lay Me Down", everybody really got into it and singing along. Singer Glen Hansard really likes to make the audience participate, and not always in cheesy ways. Also, the singalongs weren't always lyric-oriented, so the crowd had a lot of fun with the "aaaahs" and "oooouoooous", causing many to start howling like wolves at one point. Hansard would enjoy playing with the structure of the song itself, especially in their performance of "I Want My Life To Make More Sense", where he made the crowd sing quieter and quieter, which created the oddest sounding crowd singing I’ve ever heard.

One aspect of the show that pleased me less was the singer's tendency to finish his songs with covers of the likes of Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen, etc. If you do it once, it's OK and it can be entertaining, but they just seemed to do it way too often. Nonetheless, the between-song banter also got funnier as the show went along, the singer obviously feeling more and more comfortable. This was maybe caused by their intake of cheap Mexican beer, which Calexico has apparently got them hooked on. Unfortunately, my enjoyment took a major blow when Hansard decided to pull a female fan onstage. You can do the singalongs and crowd participations, but pulling a shy girl onstage to sing with you is simply too much. The girl also didn't look that pleased to be standing in the spotlight (from my point of view) and it was a concert cliché that we could have all easily gone without. The band nonetheless managed to win me over again in their second encore, where they came back onstage acapella with some drum brushes for a last quiet singalong with everyone and some final goofing off.

Overall, The Frames are a band that just seem to really be enjoying themselves when they are playing onstage. They radiate a very good and positive energy, and love to laugh at themselves ("well, back to playing some more sad folk-rock, you know, the songs about me, me, me!"). In fact, frontman Glen Hansard said in his Gazette interview the weekend before the concert:

"It's not about being the best band in the world. It's not about being a great songwriter and making people's eyebrows twitch because of what you've said in your lyrics. It's just about bringing a bit of life to people. And if someone pays $10 or $20 or whatever to see the band and they leave the building with a warm feeling, well, then we've done our job."

And yes, they do succeed at making the audience leave with a smile. You won’t necessarily live and die by their songs, but you’ll surely always have a great time at their concerts.

[The Treefrog is on hiatus and currently serves as CJLO’s production manager. You can tune in to BVST every Thursday from 6pm to 8pm to witness the Bulldozer piss on the Treefrog’s grave.]