Frank Royster
Buddy Roe’s
June 20

Local singer/songwriter and Hed Shop Boys frontman Frank Royster delivered a pretty laid-back, late-evening Father’s Day show at Buddy Roe’s with some of the usual barroom strummer material, but he shined with a few gleaming gems of his own — some were nostalgic, some bittersweet and unashamedly Beatles-esque.

Early on, around 7:30 p.m., the main room was filled with couples and families either en route or heading to the beaches at Sullivan’s and the IOP. In his first set, Royster worked through most of side B of Abbey Road, dragging the already slow “Sun King” to a dramatic new tempo, and twisting a few new grooves and accidental accents out of “Mean Mister Mustard” and “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.”

“Life’s a Bore” — one of the more rockin’ power-pop originals from his new solo album Innocence is Bliss — earned loud applause, as did a double-shot of Beach Boys’ classics (“Don’t Worry Baby” seemed to fit right into the holiday theme).

Although the crowd thinned a bit during the intermission, Royster’s set picked up steam after a bold rendition of Wings’ “Silly Love Songs,” replete with him singing the “Bah-da-da” horn parts in the breaks. He professed his adoration for Rick Springfield’s debut album Working Class Dog in his lead-in for “Love is Alright Tonite.” He bounced effortlessly through an upbeat cover of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town,” although he had to leave the dual guitar lines to the imagination of the audience.

Two slower, softer originals stood out in the second set. Changing the pace a bit, he played the sleepyhead-in-dreamland ballad “Lullaby” — a song he penned for his son, McCartney, for his 2006 solo debut Thru the Years — followed by “Beautiful Child,” another elegantly morose tune from his latest disc.

The blue mood was temporary, though, as Royster responded to one lady’s request for “some good ol’ country music” with a foot-stompin rendition of “Mr. Wonderful” (from Innocence is Bliss) and, as he called it, a “rock block from Bakersfield,” including Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars, Cadillacs,” Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” and Buck Owens’ “Tiger by the Tail.”

Royster’s rock, pop, and country chops are usually right-on — and his musical flexibility allows for some crowd-pleasing detours with ease — but acoustic-based solo gigs like this reveal his subtler vocal skills. His raspy, Elvis Costello-like croon, his rich and steady vibrato, and his occasional falsetto (when he nails it) rarely get props during his louder bar-band gigs. 

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