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Live shows return after the Christmas break


Frances @ Manchester Gorilla (3/4/17)

On a quiet Monday night with scarcely anyone about on Manchester’s usually busy streets, the  incongruous queue snaking around the corner underneath the railway arches to the back entrance of Gorilla inspired the feeling that something significant was about to happen. This sense of anticipation for an interesting night was increased by having to access the club through an inauspicious hole in the wall doorway which put me in mind of the entrance to a prohibition era speakeasy.

The intimate space was already half full with the most eclectic audience I have yet to witness at a gig, from teenagers to grandparents and everything in between.

Photo Credit: Ellie Roffey

When the first support act in the form of Ten Tonnes, aka 19 year old singer songwriter Ethan Barnett, took to the stage, most of the crowd barely lifted their heads from their conversation. He carried on masterfully and his obvious talent (which must run in the family as he is younger brother to George Ezra) and boyish charm won them round. By the end of the half hour set his take on indie guitar pop, culminating in the title track from his debut EP Lucy with its catchy melody and soaring high notes, got the crowd swaying and clapping along.

Next up were fresh-faced trio Outlya, who performed infectious melodies on guitar and drums coupled with lead singer William Bloomfield’s twinkling keys and impressive vocals. Bloomfield’s stage charm and self deprecating wit – ‘thank you for applauding in the right places and whooping accordingly’ – had the audience more than warmed up for the main event.

Photo Credit: Ellie Roffey

The lights dimmed and the audience hushed as a spotlight lit the focal point of the stage, an upright piano behind which could just be seen the strawberry blonde curls of Frances alone in the stage lights. She began to sing Don’t Worry About Me, completely stripped back and unaccompanied and I felt initially awkward as it was such a raw and vulnerable opening. I need not have feared though as her beautiful, soaring vocals filled the space like a barrage balloon and she had the audience completely mesmerised and in the palm of her hand.

She then brought her band on to the stage and admitted it was their debut performance as a band – ‘Don’t worry though, we have practiced a bit’. 

Photo Credit: Ellie Roffey

Most of the set was made up of songs from Frances‘ debut album Things I’ve Never Said.  They performed Cloud Nine, a soulful love song with powerful, emotive lyrics, ‘Don’t let me fall if you’re not in love, please don’t leave me on cloud nine’, followed by another emotional ballad, Drifting. Just when the audience was practically drowning in sentiment, Frances got up from behind the piano, ‘I’m now venturing into unchartered territory’ and sang and danced to a song called Borrowed Time which had funkier guitar riffs and an almost Jess Glynne type of vibe, followed by No Matter, which she gyrated in time to. ‘This is the first time I’ve sweated on stage’ she laughed.

‘Is everyone having a good time?’ Frances asked, to which a guy in the crowd shouted back, “This is Manchester we always have a good time!”

Photo Credit: Ellie Roffey

The initial set concluded with Sublime which lived up to its title. Frances then abruptly left the stage and came back precisely 30 seconds later (she probably counted in her head) for an encore. Despite her obvious discomfort with the idea, ‘encores are so cringy’, she performed two further songs, When it Comes to Us which I can see becoming a popular wedding song, and personal favourite, Grow, a tender and emotional ballad, which, like Sublime does what it says on the tin and grows as it plays until tingles shoot up your spine on the chorus. I immediately recognised the song but it took me the whole journey home to remember it was from the Amazon advert…

I will admit that unlike the die-hard fans that made up the 600 strong crowd, I was not overly familiar with Frances‘ music beforehand and as I’m not normally a fan of piano-based balladeering, I was unsure of how I would react. However I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the set, how many of her songs I recognised and how she engaged the crowd with her smiley, down-to-earth personality. Although comparisons with Adele are inevitable, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Frances has a flawless and powerful voice, skilful, emotive songwriting and judging from the reaction of the crowd tonight she will soon be filling stadiums.

Featured Photo Credit: The Line of Best Fit 

Ellie Roffey

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