A small venue provides a unique opportunity for a different kind of performance that one normally sees in concert. If it’s an artist that plays quieter music, a small concert can seem extremely intimate and raw, as though the audience can connect with the artist more personally. If the band is louder, then the space can be more easily filled with noise, and concerts can take on a kind of visceral intensity. The Franklin Electric tried to accomplish both of these, to somewhat mixed effect.
In spite of their recent album This Is How I Let You Down being more on the folk-pop spectrum, the concert sounded much more like a post-punk inflected soft-rock band. Instead of acoustic guitars, there were ringing delays and thumping bass lines. Whilst the sound certainly filled the room, and the audience did seem to be having a good time, their live style doesn’t seem to suit their songwriting as much as their recorded persona. Melodies that felt delicate and emotive amongst acoustic instrumentation got lost under the ringing of noisier instruments. The guitar lines were rendered as repeating chords, the notes fading together as they were subjected to echoes and delays.
The song that stuck out the most was their recent single Strongest Man Alive, which was noticeably more folksy in style than the rest of their set. The chorus was actually very evocative and sweet, whilst the thud of the drums gave the verses an enjoyable momentum. The drums were actually one of the most entertaining parts of the show, along with the bass, their insistent rhythm imbuing otherwise uninteresting songs with a sense of adrenaline. The most joyous moment of the show was seeing drummer Liam Killen singing along to the vocals, in spite of having no apparent microphone.
Another notable moment was towards the end of the set, when the band tried to take advantage of the small crowd and venue, and had the audience gather around them in a small circle, as they stood in front of the stage and played an acoustic song. Whilst the change in tone provided a pleasantly tense intimacy, the song wasn’t particularly distinctive, and the decision to play it acoustically seemed arbitrary.
However, other than the rhythmic presence, the songs sorely lacked much in the way of fun, with overly earnest lyrics – “but somehow you knew it all this time / this is how I let you down” – that never move past vague sentiments about love and heartache. Whilst vocalist Jon Matte’s voice was sweet, the melodies he sang became repetitive, with the verses of many songs just feeling like killing time before the chorus. Compounded by the simplistic guitar textures, The Franklin Electric seem like a band with some appealing parts, but one that needs to hone its sound into something a bit less derivative, and more memorable.