Before we get onto the subject of tonight’s Frank Turner gig. I’d just like to take this moment to mention the disabled facilities at the O2 Academy. For the past 6 weeks I’ve turned up for gigs on crutches with leg in cast and without too much trouble been offered and either taken to the seating area (Academy 1 and 2) or been provided with a tall seat (Academy 3). On occasions there’s even been a waiter service offered should I want or need anything. Whether you have a permanent disability or suffering from a temporary injury, don’t let it put you off from going to gigs. Gigs Rock! End of.
Right then onto Frank…
I managed to completely miss Crazy Arm and only caught the second half of Chuck Ragan. Feeling quite annoyed I resigned myself to only review and write about Frank Turner’s set. I couldn’t help myself though. Former Hot Water Music singer Chuck Ragan sounds awesome, from a visual perspective looked great and had most of the dance floor assembled crowd moving. There was no way I could not write anything about Chuck. On stage Chuck is accompanied by a double bass player and a seriously hirsute fiddler. I’m pleased to see a re-emergence of the double bass. The instrument develops a deep bass echo you can’t produce from any other kind of instrument. Chucks voice, gruff in its delivery suits perfectly the blend of country and folk rock being played. The last track of their extremely well received set began to resemble a party on; beer can toting friends from side of stage surrounded Chuck on the microphone and helped bring the finale to a climax. Chuck was only one of the supports and was getting more crowd support than some headliners I’ve recently witnessed. Incredible!
A plain white illuminated backdrop with the logo FTHC signifies the anticipated start of Frank Turner. Before anyone can be seen, an invisible acoustic guitarist begins playing followed moments later by a strumming Frank and the rest of the band running wildly onto stage. Frank’s deafening roar “Hello Birmingham” precedes a few hundred people in the audience shouting in time with Frank “1,2,3,1,2,3,4!” As openers go, that particular opener makes you stand up, take notice and hope the sheer energy and enthusiasm never exacerbates. The music of Frank Turner isn’t groundbreaking, lyrics aside it’s hardly original and yet the feeling from being at this gig was brilliant. Weeks before I struggled to believe Frank Turner could possibly fill a venue the size of Academy 1 with an assumed set consisting of folk and modern musical poetry. How wrong was I? Frank has a massive fan base throughout Europe and both sides of the Atlantic. Most of the gigs on this international tour are fully sold out. I’ve seen the dance floor as packed before but never have I seen so much energy in the crowd. There’s a single source for this energy and it comes from the band playing on stage. I don’t know about Red Bull giving you wings. Frank Turner provides a jet engine, some loosely based instructions on how you should fly and how to have fun.
Most songs have Frank giving a brief explanation as to the inspiration behind the words. Actually, you could write a book on the phrases delivered by Frank this evening. “This song’s about getting wasted on Saturday night and waking on Monday morning” (The real Damage). “Let’s have a cheer for my mom! She’s pretty cool. I spoke to her on the phone today, she says hi!” (Faithful Son). I won’t quote Frank’s speech for ‘Sons of Liberty’. Needless to say politics are quite high on Frank’s agenda. In case you’re wondering; He won’t be voting for the current government or their possible replacements for that matter. And woe betides anyone Frank spots mounting a CCTV camera. Yep, it’s fair to say Frank’s a fan of freedom.
There are simply too many moments during the gig worthy of mention. Ben Lloyd on rhythm guitar plays like an out of control whirling dervish. Nigel Powell when not behind the drums is a full on one-man fun festival. Even climbing up to the balcony at one point, his feet left no square inch of the stage untouched. If it were a different artist with the same music it would have been an ok show. Frank and the rest of the band know how to put on a great show. If you like Frank Turner, you’d have loved the gig, if you appreciate live music you’ll still love Frank Turner.
Frank Turner; a possible dictionary definition for poetry in motion.
Review – Lee Hathaway
Photos – Emma Stokes