Live Review: Frankie and the Heartstrings at INDEPENDENT, Sunderland – 28/12/18

I’m struggling to believe that 2018 was over 10 years ago and that it’s already been 8 years since I first heard Sunderland’s finest DIY band Frankie and the Heartstrings for the first time. Surprisingly, it was all thanks to an NME radar mixtape in early 2010 which contained early singles and demos from the likes of FATHS, Florence and the Machine, Everything Everything, Ellie Goulding, The Drums and more. I mean, whatever happened to Delphic (also featured on the mixtape) as well?

On Friday evening (28th Dec), Frankie and the Heartstrings returned to Sunderland’s INDEPENDENT to play a 10th anniversary gig bringing back previous bassist Denn (Steven Dennis) and enrolling Ross Millard (The Futureheads) on guitar/backing vocals. Originally meant to be a small bash, the band sold out the venues small room in record time and had to upgrade to the bigger room, also selling this out.

First up were Sunderland based, BBC6 Music praised post-punks Roxy Girls, a band with such concise songs I’d genuinely lost count how many they’d played. Although maybe tedious towards the end of their set, the band had clear Wire influences strewn throughout their music and their frantic, urgent live performance was one to be admired. They also had various instrumental tracks thrown in for good measure and this is always a plus!

Following an interlude filled with the best and even some forgotten indie-landfill tracks from over the past 15 years or so, Frankie and the Heartstrings finally took to the stage, playing to a packed out INDEPENDENT. The band played a career spanning set covering all bases across their three albums bringing back tracks such as ‘Possibilities’ and ‘Ungrateful’ which were played the first time they’d played the venue 10 years ago. I’d forgotten just how many tracks their debut ‘Hunger’ had and just how good the album was.

There were various amusing anecdotes told on the evening including the time they’d nearly set the old Sunderland INDEPENDENT on fire with a seemingly harmless string of fairy/Christmas lights. Also how a humble Sunderland based band managed to tour the world, play major festivals, tour with bands such as Kaiser Chiefs, The Vaccines and more. Oh and don’t forget ‘Hunger’ was also used for Domino’s Pizza 2011 TV ad campaign. A track that you’ll fail to find anyone who’s not singing along to it when played live.

Their 17 track set included favourites such as ‘Tender’ (minus vocal intro), the return of ‘Want You Back’, angular, jaunty ‘Everybody Looks Better (In The Right Light)’ and ‘Berlin Calls’ which is always even better live. I’d honestly forgotten how good the fast-paced ‘That Girl, That Scene’ taken from their second album ‘The Days Run Away’ was as well. Mid-set, pre ‘Want You Back’ the band also welcomed a three-piece, brass orchestra to join them for the rest of the set adding another dimension to their music.

Frankie and the Heartstrings finished up their set with an epic version of ‘Fragile’ ending up with, according to the setlist, “rock theatrics”. Frankie and the Heartstrings 10th anniversary gig last week sure finished our 2018 with a bang. Although the band concentrate more on running their DIY record store/coffee shop/venue Pop Recs LTD nowadays, this sell out gig proved them as not just still relevant but potentially one of the most interesting indie rock bands over the last decade.

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