Fresh from his debut British performance at the annual Country 2 Country music festival back in march this year, Frankie Ballard and his band are embarking on their first full-length UK tour in support of the latest release ‘El Rio’, stretching the breadth of the country. Halfway through the tour saw the band in the city of Leeds for the evenings gig at the Brudnell Social Club.
The advertised support act on the circulating posters, Smooth Hound Smith, were only set to play select dates which didn’t include the Leeds, meaning you’d find out on the night who the support was. Upon arrival a poster on the door stated the support was from a duo named Curran, appearing to be the surname of the primary singer of the duo. Curran took to the stage with great enthusiasm and a very ambitious and energetic attitude. Delivering a handful of mediocre rock songs reminiscent of Bon Jovi/Sambora at times, throughout a relatively short set would otherwise cause the feeling of monotony; however frontman Mark Curran came armed with a multitude of redeeming qualities, namely the interactions with the audience members and back stories for several of the tracks. Rounding off the set was the closing track ‘Run Back To You’, which appeared to be the most known of their setlist with the audience joining in on the chorus. Being the sole support band can prove challenging when even an established act, let alone being a lesser known artist, despite this they oiled up the audience sufficiently ready for the main act.
Taking to the stage accompanied by mass applaud from the audience was headliner Frankie Ballard and band. By this point the crowd had thickened somewhat from when Curran took to the stage.
All fired up raring to get the crowd pumping was the opener ‘El Camino’ taken off the most recent release ‘El Rio’. Following suit with the US chart topper ‘Young & Crazy’; a lively number armed with a catchy melody saw a roaring cheer from the crowd and many alike singing every lyric in its entirety. It was both refreshing and admiring to see how excited the band was to grace the stage in another uncharted territory in the UK.
The middle section of the set no doubt lost some momentum built up after the initial first two tracks, largely due to focusing on lesser known material from the latest release but also a fairly average cover of the classic Rolling Stones track ‘Aint Too Proud To Beg’.
In between tracks there was a lot of audience interaction, largely providing anecdotal introductions before kicking off the songs. ‘It All Started With A Beer’, the debut single off ‘El Rio’, brought things back on track, with Frankie introducing the song with a short, entertaining back story and rather fittingly a bottle of Becks beer in hand (perhaps they didn’t have Corona or Bud Lite on hand which would have been more appropriate, as both are mentioned in the lyrics).
Nevertheless ‘Cigarette’ succeeded, one of the more popular songs off ‘El Rio’. After the track Frankie took it upon himself to tour round the outskirts of the stage to offer selfies for the crowd members within reach, as could be imagined this proved very popular and after more than half a dozen it was apparent if he continued to do so he’d be there for the remainder of their set duration.
Whether it was a prenotion to almost play it safe, the remainder of the set featured a bulky section of covers and a medley which was unexpected as Frankie has a back catalogue of 3 albums; so more than enough material to choose from. Although the section featured well known songs such as ‘It’s Only Rock N Roll (But I Like It), ‘Hound Dog’ & ‘So Lonely’, it was a risky decision as it meant many of their other hits would be excluded from the set.
Inevitably it was the fan favourite ‘Sunshine & Whiskey’ that would be the end the nights proceedings with a bang. Any doubts in how the song would transition to the stage in a live setting were certainly put to sleep, delivered perfectly resulting in almost everybody in the room erupting into a mass sing-along to the staple song.
Frankie Ballard may be a solo artist, yet it has to be noted it is certainly a band affair rather than simply hired hands, with each member given a healthy level of spotlight and showcasing their individual talents.
The night was overall a triumph, despite the heavy dose of covers, the execution and tight band proved to win over the crowd in Leeds. The only question to raise is “why did they wait so long to grace these shores?”
Post gig the band appeared, talking, taking photos and signing whatever fans wished to be signed. A truly humble, genuine band who obviously adore their fans and sincerely appreciate them supporting the band in all its endeavours; it was even hinted that it was in the pipeline for them to return in April. Fingers crossed!
Young & Crazy
Little Bit – A – Both
Aint Too Proud To Beg – (Rolling Stones cover)
It All Started With A Beer
Good As Gold
It’s Only Rock N Roll (But I Like It) – (Rolling Stones cover)
Hound Dog/So Lonely/Hound Dog – (Elvis medley)
Sunshine & Whiskey