Monday, May 17, 2010

Adam Franklin & The Bolts of Melody @ DC9 1/6/10*

courtesy of Adam Franklin

On Wednesday night, DC9 played host to Adam Franklin & The Bolts of Melody as they made DC the second stop of their month-long American tour. The small venue proved the ideal spot to observe and enjoy Franklin's guitar alchemy and emotional vocal delivery up close and personal. The band put on a really special set for the modest-sized crowd of Swervedriver fan-boys and guitar-geeks who braved the winter's chill to catch this mid-week show.

This is where every review and article on the planet about The Bolts of Melody offers a quick rundown of Adam Franklin's prolific career. If you don't know the man you can read about Swervedriver (personal favs of mine), the interesting Toshack Highway project, and Magnetic Morning on your own dime. For our purposes what is really important is that after many years of self-imposed exile from effects-pedal, guitar work Adam Franklin, one of the very best, has returned.

Simply put the word to describe this set is "Wow". I know reviews are supposed to be a little more eloquent than that, and I will attempt to be shortly, but "wow" is the word that has been repeating in my head since the end of this show. Seriously, if you are an old school Adam Franklin fan and you are reading this, and your town is on this brief January tour, and you were on the fence about going because he has been goofing around with acoustics and electronics for years, go see this and you will be very impressed.

Without dipping into the Swervedriver back-catalog once, Adam Franklin & The Bolts of Melody put on a masterful exhibition that really explored the creative potential contained within the electric guitar. When it comes to guitar there are your power-players, your 'wall- of sound' onslaughts, your epic riffsters, your cold precision players, and so on and so on. It takes a real virtuoso to fully tap into the instrument's beauty through restraint and release like Adam Franklin did on Wednesday night. Every slight movement made seemed to add a new amazing sound to the rich sonic-swirl that surrounded the crowd. Franklin and his fellow guitar player stood surrounded by pedals using the countless gadgets to generate a thousand squeaks, squalls, echoes, and zaps adding layer upon layer of sound textures. It was really beautiful to watch, even more beautiful to hear.

The other great aspect of the show was Franklin's vocal delivery. The slower-tempo songs of The Bolts of Melody (as opposed to the majority of Swervedriver's barn-burners) really gave Franklin's voice the time to sink in with the listener. The show had a pretty powerful emotional element to it as Franklin's delivery ranged from world-weary romantic to wistful reminiscence. This was most evident on the amazing performance of "Canvey Island Baby"; a song that almost felt like an epilogue to one of Swervedriver's many car-obsessed songs of the past.

Sampling handsome portions from each of his solo albums, the set effortlessly swayed from the blissed-out shoegazer of "Autumn Leaf" to the mature power-pop of "Seize the Day" and back again. For an encore we were treated to a thunderous, three-song preview of their forth-coming album that hearkened back to the Swervedriver days and had me holding back the urge to yell out "I'd buy it!". Instead I settled for exchanging a few words and shaking hands with the man himself after the set; yet another benefit of catching this show at the wonderfully intimate DC9.

* originally titled "Summer Has Gone".

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