There’s something transcendent about a Frank Shiner performance, an element that goes beyond a gifted artist connecting with his audience. It’s bigger than that. Deeper.
To find where this soul-driven passion comes from, we need to spin the clock backward a bit to when a younger Frank was traveling down a path that could have made him a star in musical theater. Back to a moment when, while he was busy making other plans, life happened. Being who he is, Frank happily left his dreams behind to start a family. And everything was right.
Until his wife, Suzanne, got sick.
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“It was radiation and it was chemo. It was infections and it was MRSA. It was 22 days in the hospital at a time and it was almost dying! I mean, it was four and a half years of, ‘Are you kidding me?!’” Frank recalled.
One night, at a restaurant, Suzanne began begging her husband to get up on stage and perform for her. When he refused, she pulled back her wig to show him her bald head and pleaded with him to take the stage.
Realizing he couldn’t say no — “She pulled the cancer card on me!” — Frank reluctantly took the stage. The crowd loved him, and that reaction, to his wife’s delight, catalyzed the artist’s reentry into the world of performing.
In the years following that fateful night, not only has Suzanne been given a clean bill of health, but Frank’s career has been on a steady climb. In 2014, he released The Real Me. Just last month, Lonely Town, Lonely Street (RED/Sony) came out.
On May 20, Entertaining Options was invited to attend the Philadelphia release party of Frank’s latest album in the upstairs lounge at the iconic World Cafe Live. The velvet throated, blue-eyed crooner was backed by two phenomenal musicians, Chris Coogan on keyboards (Bette Midler, Donna Summer, Paul Newman) and Sherrod Barnes on guitar (Whitney Houston, Ashanti, Roberta Flack).
Frank Shiner has a classic voice that blazes with the swoon-worthy soul of a master. Other artists might cover songs written by legends such as Tony Joe White, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Randy Newman, Daryl Hall, and John Oats, but when Frank sings them, it sounds like these classic tracks were tailor-made for his golden ember vocals.
Some arrangements of the beloved tunes he sings (“She’s Gone,” “Guilty,” “I Will Be There”) stay comfortably close to the familiar versions, but where Shiner shines is in the gentle re-sculpting of timeless hits. The delicate spin he puts on The Young Rascals’ “How Can I Be Sure” is rapturous. And the wrecking ball he takes to Timberlake’s “Drink You Away,” so he can rebuild it from the ground up, is just mind-blowing.
In between his pin-drop performances, Frank chats with the audience in a refreshing way that is remarkably different from other entertainers. His behind-the-songs stories are infused with a genuine sense of wonder. It’s as if he still can’t believe this is his life and he is humbled by the attention and grateful to each and every member of the audience for his or her support.
And then there’s that aforementioned transcendent element. Likely, it’s not something the artist is fully in control of. It just happens. The magic at a Frank Shiner show is actually created by his wife. Watching her watching him, you can see the joy radiating from her heart and spilling out through her eyes. Her love fuels him and makes him reach deeper to return it to her (and the rest of the crowd) in song. On May 20, nowhere was that love more evident than when Frank dedicated the title track of his debut album, “The Real Me,” to his wife. As he sang, the room fell away leaving just two people lost in a beautiful moment.
When Frank Shiner sings, it’s not for himself, it’s for the woman who encouraged him to pursue his dreams. When he sings, it comes from a place of love.
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Frank and Suzanne have three kids, Matthew (28), Jeremy (26), and Lindsay (17). Like her father, Lindsey also sings and writes songs. Currently, she is going college for drama.
Frank’s next performance is on July 8 at Feinstein’s 54 Below in New York City. Tickets for his 9:30 p.m. show are available Here.