||SPIKE'S FREE HOUSE
The Borderline, London
6th June 2015
Liz Medhurst: Photos by Sean Cameron
Spike's Free House brought a hell of a lot of happiness to The Borderline tonight with their Frankie Miller and Free set as well as a bit of reviewing torment.
The supergroup is comprised of Spike from the Quireboys, Luke Morley from Thunder, Mark Stanway from Magnum, Free's Simon Kirke, and Nick Mailing of The Quireboys handling bass duties.
When this project was first born, Andy Fraser was the bass player, but of course his sad passing earlier this year made that impossible, so tonight also served as a fitting tribute to him.
That's quite an illustrious line up, so with the gig being held at The Borderline it gave it quite a surreal vibe, but the stage was perfect for the type of music.
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One of the purposes of this project is to raise awareness of Frankie Miller, a Scottish singer-songwriter with a solid catalogue and a fine example of British rock. Spike's album '100% Frankie Miller' - reviewed here - showcased a selection of rare and unreleased songs with love, energy and commitment, and these gigs hope to continue that.
Of course there was an unexpected dimension to this gig too with the Andy Fraser tribute and the crowd's reaction showed just how highly regarded he is and how much he will be missed.
Starting with 'Be Good To Yourself' from Frankie's 1977 album 'Full House' was a nice choice as this one was written by Andy Fraser so the Free/Frankie amalgamation was there from the start.
'Wishing Well' followed, and was given the same stylistic treatment as the first track, quite a pub rock vibe, before we fell into the mellow blues of 'Cocaine'. Musically there was more of the former than the latter, the band exuding a relaxed and easy jamming style that was fitting to most of the material.
By the time we got to 'Fortune' Spike apologised for Bonnie Tyler (who had duetted on the album track) not being here, but he carried it off with style putting in a Rod Stewart-esque rasp, further amplifying the many Faces comparisons tonight.
Another back to back contrast in the set list came with a suberb rendition of 'The Hunter' which was followed by the country twang of 'Cold Cold Nights'. I'm sure it was performed well, but I really really dislike country music so it was never going to do it for me.
My highlight was 'The Brooklyn Bridge', a quality blues track where the band just went for it and lifted the roof a couple of notches.
After this was the loosest rendition of 'All Right Now' you are likely to hear, with Spike uttering the now infamous words: "I only got the words wrong so Classic Rock would have something to write about".
The encore consisted of everyone singing along to the 1979 hit 'Darlin'' – back in that c-word territory again, but it's quite a short song.
It's difficult to avoid words like jovial and bonhomie to describe tonight - it really was a stellar example of the best kind of pub rock, and so admirable that the songs are being kept alive – any lesser enjoyable moments are purely down to personal taste.
However, albeit that the band put in a great set and everyone had a great night out, overall I was left with a feeling of unfulfilled potential. With the talent before us I kept thinking of what it would be like if we had seen a combination of the majesty of Magnum, the power of Thunder, the quirky mischief of The Quireboys and the soulful expansive magic of Free. That would put the super into supergoup.
This is perhaps a bit unfair as the night was exactly as billed – a celebration of the music of Frankie Miller and Free. Suppose that's what happens when you have line ups of this quality.
Country tracks aside, I would go and see them again though – what's not to love about having a bloody good time?
Be Good To Yourself (Frankie Miller)
Wishing Well (Free)
Cocaine (Frankie Miller)
My Brother Jake (Free)
A Bottle Of Whisky (Frankie Miller)
Intensive Care (Frankie Miller)
Fortune (Frankie Miller)
Mr Big (Free)
The Other Side Of Town (Frankie Miller)
Living In A Cheap Hotel (Frankie Miller)
The Hunter (Free)
Cold Cold Nights (Frankie Miller)
The Brooklyn Bridge (Frankie Miller)
All Right Now (Free)
Darlin’ (Frankie Miller)