Francis Dunnery's It Bites
17/1/20 & 18/1/20
Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton
& Manchester Club Academy
Frank has been out playing the ‘It Bites’ catalogue with a band of musicians behind him for the last 4 years on the 3rdweekend of January. Sticking to 3 cities that have always produced good support, namely, Wolverhampton, Manchester and London. Tickets would normally sell out a couple of weeks prior to the event, but not this time around! London went 6 months in advance, Manchester 5 months and Wolverhampton 3 months! An additional date in Glasgow sold-out the day before the event.
The difference? ‘Re-branding’. Past shows had gone out as Francis Dunnery and his band playing ‘It Bites’, but now it’s “Francis Dunnery’s It Bites” and the nation has tuned in! While I would usually be at the Shepherd’s Bush Hall, West London, at the final show on the Sunday night, by the end of August the 425 capacity venue has sold-out. No mention of adding another date so I went for the Wolverhampton show on the Friday night plus another hour train journey the following day to Manchester.
The theme for this year’s show is the second studio album ‘Once Around the World’, originally cut back in 1988, and arguably the best of the three from Frank’s period with the original line-up. All the songs are covered within the two hour plus set along with a couple of ‘B’ sides from singles, and the ever popular ‘Underneath Your Pillow’, ’Calling All the Heroes’ and the closing number ‘Still Too Young To Remember’.
There is a story or two to tell from the early days, pantomime animals and the multi-talented guest slot for Peter Jones, the band’s keyboard player. The band enter the stage with Melba Moore’s ‘This Is It’ disco number dropping in the background to launch straight into ‘Kiss Like Judas’, ’Black December’ and then onto ‘Yellow Christian’. Backing Frank on second/dual guitar is young Mancunian Luke Machin, Bjorn Fryklund on drums, Pete Harwood on bass and, as previously mentioned, Mr. Jones on keys.
Personnal fave ‘The Old Man and The Angel’, ’Rose Marie’ and the extended version of ‘Midnight’, which went to Rave/House beat, that could have easily been remixed for that genre and had the crowd ‘hands in the air’ - were the highlight tracks of the evening.
To the venues. Wolverhampton’s Slade Rooms is a dark aging building holding 550 people and Friday night is a heavily male dominated audience with a couple of annoying pillars. The Manchester Club Academy on the other hand is in the Student’s Union building holding 650 punters, light in décor and nightclub style. As noted by Mr.Dunnery a greater proportion of females are present at Manchester and that Saturday feel to the atmosphere is evident. The enthusiasm was the same for both nights but the better venue, bigger stage and audience gives Manchester the edge. London needs a larger venue next year and a Saturday would make it alright!
An ‘It Bites’ convention is planned for the Summer in the West Midlands town of Oswestry and a new album is in the pipeline with the present band members.