Frankie & the Heartstrings | Pop review

The Leadmill, Sheffield

The mark of natural stardom is the ability to give a command performance when there is hardly anybody to see it. In front of a half-empty venue, singer Frankie Francis runs his hands through his Morrissey-style quiff, closes his eyes in concentration, leaps off the stage to sing to the bar and gyrates his bottom with such alarming ferocity it almost knocks the keyboard from the stage. He is a ready-made pop star, just waiting for an audience, and certainly seems to have the right vehicle in the Heartstrings.

Dubbed the "sound of young Sunderland", the band look like a gang, and their painfully tight drainpipes justify their claim to have the "best trousers in pop". Just as important, they have a clutch of anthems made to learn and sing. Their stomping sound – which is surely scientifically impossible to dislike – dips into Dexys circa Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, mid-period Clash, 60s pop, Orange Juice, northern soul, romance and literature without loitering anywhere. Tender begins with an a cappella routine about reading F Scott Fitzgerald, and turns into a dancefloor pounder. Smash-in-waiting I Wrote This Song With You in Mind sounds like Wearside's answer to Blondie's Heart of Glass.

Such tunes transform the initial hush into a party atmosphere of smiling, sing-alongs and whooping. One couple start waltzing, while another girl risks flouting the indecency laws by patting the gyrating singer on his bottom. A former mobile DJ and hospital radio football commentator, Francis starts the bittersweet stomp of Fragile in the middle of the audience and ends it with people lining up to shake his hand.

At King Tut's, Glasgow (0141-221 5279) tonight. Then touring.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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