LIVE: Paley & Francis @ Valentine’s Music Hall, 9/7/11

Video of Paley & Francis is not from Valentine’s, but rather from Mohawk Place in Buffalo the following night, September 8…

Paley & Francis – a collaboration between singer-songwriter Reid Paley and Pixies frontman Black Francis (also known as Frank Black throughout his solo career) – chose Albany as the first stop on a mini-tour to debut songs from their forthcoming self-titled album, due out this fall.

“I’m glad we opened here,” said Francis from the stage at Valentine’s Music Hall on Wednesday night. “I liked it the last time I was in Albany. This is our first public rehearsal.”

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The show did have the low-key, rough-around-the-edges feel of a rehearsal, with Paley and Francis – backed by drummer David Varriale and bassist Eric Eble of Paley’s regular outfit, the Reid Paley Trio – still working out some kinks, like who would introduce what song or stand where.

“I let you be billed first, please let me be center stage,” joked Francis at the start.

The pair had the easy banter – i.e. lots of mutual ball-busting – of old friends, with Francis playing the role of the seasoned stage veteran trying to keep the less polished, more antagonistic Paley in line. (Although the crisp uniform of dark suits and white shirts worn by the band was supposedly Paley’s idea.)

A singer with a hoarse bellow and a pointed, devilish goatee, Paley’s been performing solo and with his trio since the 1990s; before that he bashed around in a Pittsburgh blues-punk band, the Five.

His joking familiarity with Francis is rooted in a long collaboration. Paley co-wrote a handful of tunes for the well-received 2006 Frank Black solo album, “Fast Man Raider Man,” while Francis produced Paley’s 1999 solo album “Lucky’s Tune,” and the two men shared bills in the past.

“I like how we sell the chorus on that song,” Francis said sarcastically after “Ugly Life,” a gruff-rock tune with a pop core. He was right; the song has a catchy chorus, but they buried it under fuzz and distortion.

In addition to “Ugly Life,” the band debuted all ten tunes from their forthcoming album at Valentine’s, including the Pixie-esque album-opener “Curse,” the darkly malevolent ‘Magic Cup,” the dirty grooving “Seal,” the lighter, sweeter “Crescent Moon” and the appropriately titled, bashed out rocker, “Deconstructed.”

The pair wrote the music for the new songs in Paley’s Brooklyn apartment in just three days last year, finished the lyrics separately, and then recorded the album in Nashville over two days, all in first-takes.

You got the sense that no matter how often they play to support the new songs (and the Pixies’ upcoming “DooLittle Lost Cities” tour will put a crimp in that), the pair’s collaboration will always be a bit of an ad hoc thing.

“We wrote this one via telephone and email – drunken phone calls and drunken emails,” announced Paley before “Another Velvet Nightmare,” a tune the pair co-wrote for Frank Black’s “Honeycomb” album, which live at Valentine’s ended with both singers one-upping each other on a series of primal screams.

The rest of the set – except for closer “Wild Man from Borneo,” a Kinky Friedman cover – drew from such past collaborations, most recorded at some point by Frank Black, including the elegiac “Golden Shore,” the honky-tonk “I’m Not Dead (I’m in Pittsburgh)” and Paley’s gruff ballad, “Take What You Want.”

Review by Kirsten Ferguson

Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “This was the first show that Paley and Francis ever played together, on the same stage, as they revealed numerous times throughout the set (although they’ve toured together before with separate bands). The two, along with bassist Eric Eble and drummer David Varriale, tore through their coming joint album, also titled ‘Paley and Francis,’ due out Oct. 13, along with older songs the two have collaborated on together. The tracks from the coming album all appeared in order, and offered a nice balance between the two songwriters’ distinctive styles. Opener ‘Curse’ featured one of Francis’ trademark speak-sing verses, with a harmonized chorus from Paley over a winding guitar riff. The more sedate ‘On the Corner’ followed, this time giving over to Paley’s alt-country feel. This back and forth, give-and-take continued throughout much of the evening — though as the songs progressed, the two singers’ styles integrated more comfortably. The Paley-sung ‘Ugly Life’ was an instant highlight early on in the set, showing the two songwriters at their sweetest.”

On the Corner
Magic Cup
Ugly Life
Golden Shore
Another Velvet Nightmare
The Last Song
Don’t Get Me Wrong
Crescent Moon
I’m Not Dead (I’m in Pittsburgh)
Dog Sleep
Happy Shoes
Take What You Want
Wild Man from Borneo (Kinky Friedman)

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