Live Review: Frank Turner

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With his fourth album, ‘England Keep My Bones’, Frank Turner has moved up in many ways. The much more folk orientated album from the ‘Wessex’ boy has gained him a much wider audience while moving on musically even further from his Hardcore Punk background.

Since leaving his band Million Dead he has gone on to gain great respect, culminating in performing at Old Trafford Cricket Ground and Wembley Stadium supporting Green Day in the summer of 2010, where Billie Joe Armstrong referred to him as the greatest songwriter in the world today. Now officially joined by his band, ‘The Sleeping Souls’, Frank embarked on his biggest UK solo tour ever, moving on from the small humble venue to the grand theatres like Manchester Apollo, a tour eventually culminating in a day of music in April at Wembley Arena, headlined by Frank Turner and featuring special guest Billy Bragg.

This UK tour was in support of the fourth album and followed his acoustic tour from earlier in the year, where he performed in the library in Lancaster. Supporting him on the tour first was Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo. The folk quartet had a very ambient sound, supporting all manner of instruments from accordions to cellos. They put on a great performance but the wide range of people in the audience were not familiar with this quiet folk music so the band were greeted with a very appreciative reception but more ‘thanks for playing’ rather than ‘I will listen to you again’.

Next up were ‘Against Me!’, who Frank later said were his favourite hardcore punk band out there. The Floridians played a set full of music, quite literally. They seemingly squashed their usual headline set down into the forty minutes they had to play, leaving no time during songs for even a little hello – an occasional thank you but that was all. This though is my only complaint from a hard-working band mixing in their own gigs in and around their support gigs all over Europe. The music was reminiscent of early Jimmy Eat World but ‘turned up to eleven’, to use the cliché. With a polished performance it was impossible not to have a good time – how many bands can say they caused circle mosh pits at a folk music gig?

Up next were Mr Turner & The Sleeping Souls. No fancy lighting or intro music that you come to expect from bands in this size of venue. Just five guys on stage appearing after a curtain drop to the short but sweet first song ‘Eulogy’ off ‘England Keep My Bones’. Followed by hit after hit, the fast paced ‘Try This At Home’ and ‘The Road’ to name a few, the band in matching white shirts and black pants looked the part. The solitary candle lights from a stereotypical Christmas house window lit up the left of the stage on top of a guitar amp. A sleek red curtain at the back of the stage added to the overall quality look to go with the perfect sound of the band – a band that know they are going places.

Snapping a guitar string mid song didn’t faze Frank who powered on regardless singing every word with such passion; it is hard not to be amazed by the genius of the man up on stage. Such wonderful lyrics and great songs to boot, a modern day Bob Dylan who sings songs that resonate with people from all walks of life.

An encore starting with a brand new song written just the week before was a very sombre moment, even songs that are way off being a final draft and the first time that people have heard it can have people singing along on the second chorus, evidence to support the talents of the man up on stage. Joined again by the members of The Sleeping Souls and Red Clay Halo (who played throughout the set on practically every song), they played through one of Franks first hits ‘The Ballad Of Me & My Friends’. Then as the first note of ‘Photosynthesis’ followed the red curtain at the back dropped to show a huge curtain with the ‘Frank Turner Hardcore’ logo on. The song was doubled in length; the electric mandolin favoured instead of guitar by guitarist Ben Lloyd, with the security guards being urged to sing along it made it a very fun end to the night.

The gig was a great success and an answer to fans claiming that Frank had sold out by playing bigger venues and widening his audience. His answer has always been “while I have the chance I may as well play them as I may never get the chance again”, but the answer really should be “if I can sell out venues this size then why not spread my music to as many people as I can.” Frank has a lot to look forward to in the future and long may it last.

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