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  Set List 
Artist: The Frames
Label: Plateau
Length: 13 tracks

After the mellower strains of their last studio album For the Birds, The Frames are back with the crunching confident swaggering riff of the opening “Revelate” from Set List, an album recorded live at Vicar Street in Dublin. The Frames gave up playing the songs that sell albums a long time ago. Now they see the recording studio and the stage as different arenas to use different gifts and pull off different effects. How many times have you heard that a band sounds better live? This is one of those few albums that achieve the buzz and adrenaline rush of the actual live event. 

Lead singer Glen Hansard plays an audience like few others can. There is intensity of belief, hope of better days, mystical reaching, the thrill of love chased, the joy of love found and the tenderest ache of love lost. There is a clash of laughter and tears that few loud rock bands want to attempt, never mind achieve. There is a man and his band trying to squeeze the last bit of excitement that rock can give and we are all one in camaraderie and rock ‘n’ roll communion. Hansard simply does it all to the nth degree and are we so glad!

The place of the audience in The Frames scheme of things is a crucial one and Set List  gives them that place. They are more of a Dublin Community Gospel Choir as they sing along from the very first word, go solo in “Star, Star” and have their own part on “Rent Day Blues” as they sing Kool and The Gang’s “celebrate good times come on!” It is hard to imagine how the band rehearsed the new song “The Blood” without them; they are so crucial to its delivery. They also bring the reverential hush for moments of intimacy as on “What Happens When the Heart Just Stops.” 

The eclecticness of the band is given panorama here too. There are the fiddles, harmonicas and banjos on “Rent Day Blues” that hark back to their early days when they were described as “raggle taggle with balls”! There is the full on shake the walls adrenalin-filled songs like “Pavement Tune” and the hushed ambience of the tracks from _For the Birds_ that rise to beautiful crescendos. “What Happens When the Heart Just Stops” does what it says in the title. You feel like warning your heart of the dangers of listening. It is almost impossible to imagine someone achieving this kind of tender heartbreak in the midst of everything else that has been going on. The party atmosphere and sing along celebration is set on the bar for a moment while the heart and soul sweat and the body takes a rest. 

Never underestimate the power of wisdom under girding these songs. Hansard is not an empty headed hedonist simply whipping up a crowd. He throws out an immense amount of advice and observation on human experience. As he says in the blistering “Pavement Tune” “I want my life to make more sense/I want my life to make amends/I want my life to make more sense to me.” That is why Hansard is up there untangling life’s joys and heartaches, successes and disappointments and having a darn good time doing it. The adding of Marley’s “Redemption Song to Your Face” is well placed. For as long as he untangles it I want to be right there in the heart of the fellowship. If you own one live album… 
                               
Steve Stockman 6/8/2003
 
 

Steve Stockman is the Presbyterian Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He has just finished a book on U2 - Walk On; The Spiritual Journey of U2, is the poetic half of Stevenson and Samuel who have just released their debut album Gracenotes and he has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster (listen anytime of day or night @ www.bbc.co.uk/ni/religion/rhythmandsoul). He has his own web page - Rhythms of Redemption at http://stocki.ni.org. He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine. 

  

   
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