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Live Review: Fran Healy – Thursday 30th September 2010 – The Garage, London, UK

5 min read

Fran Healy has been quite the busy boy over the past year. Completing his first solo record, Wreckorder, that sees its release this coming Monday has been filling up the scottish songsmith’s hectic schedule quite nicely and with that comes some remarkable promotional gigs and appearances.

Healy has had impressive career which spans an impressive 20 years. As the principle songwriter and confidently laid back front man of scottish musical export, Travis, Healy has penned some of the most profound, infectious and memorable songs of the past two decades which have in turn helped Travis become an internationally recognised act as well as Healy, one of the countries most in demand songwriters.

Hits like Why Does It Always Rain On Me, Sing, Flowers in the Window and Driftwood have paved the way for the bands signiture sound and promise of critical acclaim for 20 years.

Following a successful performance at West London’s Bush Hall, Healy set a date with a small crowd at North London’s The Garage to showcase the new record as well as reminisce on a few Travis favorites.

I turned up at the venue at just shy of 8pm and as a virgin to The Garage I was surprised at the size of the venue. It was tiny but the perfect intimate setting for the acoustic showcasing of new material for the Scotsman who I was told would take to the stage at 8.30pm.

After paying an astonishing £3.60 for nothing more than a Coca Cola – admittedly I was being rather tame – I sat back and waited for my ears to be danced upon.

At just past 8.30pm Fran emerged to the applause of no more than 100 lucky fans. Casually dressed in a yellow and black stripped t-shirt, jeans and a dated, rustic farmers hat he instantly lit up the room. The scene was very informal to the point where in the middle of the gig Healy asked the audience if it was OK that it was as laid back as it was before telling the audience ‘your my mates, your in my living room, live with it’, to which the singer got a big applause. And it really felt that way. The singer must be so used to, at this point in his career, playing big arenas that such an intimate setting must feel so refreshing and stripped back.

Having to leave the stage briefly to collect his forgotten set list which he placed in his back pocket when he returned, Healy describe to us how the set would run. That he would play tracks from the new record and then get the audience would get the chance to pick a few Travis favorites. Of course Healy could never get away with a set of solo tracks only regardless of how good they were.

Once the introductions were done Healy dove straight in with the first number, Wreckorders first single, Buttercups. The single has been getting the singer some well deserved attention since its release and why not – the song is one of the best tracks that Healy has written, including from his time in Travis. The crowd lapped it up and found Healy’s story of the making of the Buttercups video a funny anecdote involving the city of New York, a limo and an ill sheep, to end he first numbers slot.

Almost all of Wreckorder was performed at some point throughout the hour long performance.

Holiday and Sing Me To Sleep were perfectly set among the nights intimate and whispery numbers. Healy told the crowd of his meeting with US singer Neko Case who he met while in Berlin and bravely asked the songstress to feature on Wreckorder on the latter number which is one of the albums two collaborations.

The second of these two collaborations came in the form of As We Sleep in which Healy was fortunate enough to have legendary Beattle, Paul McCartney, play bass on the track. The songs live performance even came equipped with a humorous cockney accent which Healy proudly made fun of.

Fly In The Ointment got a lovely inclusion as well as gaining one of the biggest crowd applauses. The sensitive Rocking Chair, in which Healy paid homage to sufferers of Alzheimer’s and a story of a tearful flights light reading, was sublimely performed with a heartbreaking tone heard through the singers raspy voice.

Ending Healy’s solo numbers with Moonshine, he rounded the showcase off with thanking those in the audience who had commented on his mothers stain glass window which Healy had posted on his website.

Having successfully mastered his new body of work the singer offered to the crowd a chance to suggest Travis numbers that they wanted to hear. Though there were many tracks that could have been thrown into the ring, it was the more obscure tracks that were given the limelight. A very youthful performance of Happy was the first in line followed by the hypnotically soft The Humpty Dumpty Love Song and Coming Around. During the last chorus of the final track Healy suffered a case of ‘broken string’ so the lead acoustic guitar was gently placed to one side and the track finished with a 12 string replacement. Because of the hiccup in Fran’s performance he offered up one final song and the gorgeous and personal More Than Us took centre stage.

Healy was as personable and entertaining throughout the night as a performer can be. Humorous anecdotes and memoirs came attached to every song that he performed.

He looked worn but in a rough seaside singer sort of way. Like a man who had cast the shackles of vanity aside to put all focus on his music, on what really matters.

Healy owned the night as a powerful and confident solo song-smith. Though there are no confirmed intentions of ending the Travis wagon anytime soon, tonight’s solo venture would no doubt leave any backing band a little sweaty palmed knowing that the motor still runs without what seems to be excess parts.

A brilliant evening that was shared with equally appreciative fans and a much loved musician who can do no wrong.

Set list:

Sing Me To Sleep
Fly In The Ointment
As It Comes
Rocking Chair
Happy (Travis)
The Humpty Dumpty Love Song (Travis)
Coming Around (Travis)
More Than Us (Travis)