5th February 2018. On what is probably the coldest night of the year so far, there’s a buzz in Brighton that seems out of place on a freezing Monday evening. Outside Komedia in the North Laine area of town, a crowd gathers around preparing to see Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn.
We arrive at the venue around 8, and the room is already filling up. It’s an interesting mix of 20-somethings who look like they’ve walked out of an Urban Outfitters advert, and middle-aged people sipping pints and talking amongst themselves. Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn have attracted a wide and diverse demographic to their gig tonight, and when you look around the room and notice how varied their audience is one thing’s for certain: you know you’re in Brighton.
Support comes from One Eyed Jacks, an acoustic soul group who are cool as fuck and bring R&B vibes that gets everyone ready. When the lead vocalist launches into a song beginning with the line “ain’t nothing wrong” his voice sounds eerily like it’s about to launch into “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone”. The band stay on stage for almost half an hour, and everyone loves it.
But the real excitement comes when the headline act walk onto the stage. It becomes apparent very quickly that a lot of the audience know the duo on a personal level. Whenever one of Frankie’s verses mentions a close friend people cheer, and all the main hooks are shouted back at him, word-for-word, in perfect time.
Having spent a lot of time listening to the pair over the past six months, I was intrigued to see what they would bring to their live performance to make it different. I normally put on their music when I’m alone at home, so I was interested to see how their style of relaxed, confessional rap would translate to the context of a lively Brighton audience.
They did not disappoint. Harvey remixs a lot of the tunes when playing live to make them more dancey, while still maintaining the raw honesty that their music encompasses. When Frankie spits “I can’t wait for the day that my bro gets better”, everyone in the room repeats it. Given the topics that their lyrics cover (relationships, regret, illness, family, etc) it would be easy for a live performance to feel uncomfortable. But this was certainly not the case. “I ain’t even trying to get deep and that,” Frankie reminds us, smiling at the audience while he asks someone to get him and Harvey a drink from the bar.
The boys deliver a selection of their best hits throughout their set, with Frankie reminding us at several points that Brighton is their hometown. With the half the crowd seeming to have some personal connection to them, and everyone screaming lines like “I walked past Preston Park in the rain” with more emphasis than you’d get at other shows, it definitely feels as though, in the best possible way, we’re in a gig that’s hosted in the pair’s living room.
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