Frankie & The Heartstrings....
The Georgian Theatre, Stockton
When she was a teenager, my mum worked at a record shop in Bradford. She loved Northern Soul, befriended The Jam after an in-store appearance, and built up an impressive collection of vinyl. Then she met a Beatles-obsessed Kevin Keegan lookalike there and, just over a year later, I was born. There's no accounting for taste. But it does explain where I got my love of bands from.
Anyway, there is a point here - tonight's main act, Frankie & The Heartstrings, have their own record shop in Sunderland, Pop Recs - bloody good it is too. As I walk in, Frankie himself is manning the merch stall (The Purnells have a merch section too. Essentially, it's a bag with their albums in. Still counts though), chatting away to all and sundry with a cheeky grin splitting his face and awesomely flicky hair. More on that later. It's time for The Purnells.
I love watching these blokes. Even though I've seen them a fair few times - and know their music inside out - their live performance takes some beating. Ski masks, face painting and having a mooch round the audience are all par for the course and remain highly entertaining no matter how many times I watch them. Opening with Ghosts, tonight's performance focused mainly on their second album, A Half Step Into The Shadow. Though it was more of a toned-down performance from the normally uber-theatrical Stu it was still packed with energy. Watching him precariously balanced on a chair bellowing out one of my favourites, Low Down Shake, made me simultaneously smile and worry that he was going to end up with a broken leg. Soon to be performing at the Stockton Weekender festival, catch them if you can. They are consistently fantastic.
Second up was In Vibes, Sunderland young 'uns with so much shoegazey intensity that guitar strings spontaneously snap in their presence (I did giggle at the brilliantly adlibbed 'bloody Argos guitar strings'). A few technical difficulties - and nerves - were overcome as they grunged their way through their set, laden with melancholy melodies. It's not to everyone's taste, and in honesty I'd like to see them again on top form as I think the techy glitches threw them off their stride, but is well received by the crowd, already hyped up and ready for the headliners.
As Frankie & the Heartsrings take the stage the crowd roar, ready for the party that's about to begin. From the outset Frankie is bouncing, hip-wiggling, hair-flicking and limboing through his performance. I'm knackered just watching him. He's a human frigging Duracell bunny. Relentlessly singalong, tracks like That Girl, That Scene, Nothing Our Way and Photograph are belted out with aplomb, interspersed with facts about Stockton meticulously researched by the band. Or hastily Googled maybe. However you look at it, it's nice to have a little education with your music.
As the performance peaks with Hunger - I bloody love that song, with all its Dexy's-like whooaaaa ohhhhs - everyone is caught up in the moment, from the folk bouncing at the front to the foot tappers and head nodders at the back. I find myself foot tapping, head nodding, singing along and drumming on my thigh. Looking to my right, I see Radio 1's Huw Stephens doing the same thing (on his own thigh, not mine. That would just be weird). Mint.
Heading home shortly after I'm in a ridiculously chirpy mood. Their music makes me so damn happy. The Georgian Theatre was the perfect setting -and the stage is great for photos, I got some crackers. I'll be back tomorrow for Ethan Johns, plus a support act that genuinely blew me away, but that's another story. Tonight belongs to Frankie, all his Heartstrings...and the music that firmly tugged on mine.