From his humble folk beginnings after leaving his post-hardcore band Million Dead, Mr Turner has gradually grown into a bonafide “rock star”, performing at the Olympic Games opening ceremony and now headlining an arena tour.
He’s also one of the nicest blokes in rock, surely not too far behind Dave Grohl who owns that official title. Swears a bit, mind. But good swearing.
Date: February 7, 2014
Venue: Motorpoint Arena Nottingham
FRANK Turner’s continued rise shows no sign of abating. From the moment he quit post-hardcore noise merchants Million Dead to concentrate on a more subdued solo career, Turner has continued to attract an ever-increasing fanbase.
From humble beginnings, including stints at the now-derelict Junktion 7 and the Rescue Rooms – where he’s certain he’ll return on his descent – the fans have stuck by him, and he’s now the starter of many a party inside venues the size of which he never imagined he’d play.
Right from the word go, Frank was no longer the awkward bloke with the acoustic guitar, – he’s the pied piper of folk-punk, backed by his band the Sleeping Souls on a mission to motivate, cajole and control his crowd.
First song Photosynthesis, with its Celtic vibe and sing-along chorus, brought out a spontaneous reaction from the crowd, who all sat down and then bounced back up to the line: “I won’t sit down, and I won’t shut up but most of all I won’t grow up.”
It sets the tone for an incredibly honed and astute display of how to synchronise an audience.
His set is a tapestry of old and new – from the fresh Polaroid Picture, in which Junktion 7 is referenced as a comparison, to the song’s main focal point, the demise of the London Astoria, to the classic One Foot In Front Of The Other, an old punk ode that sounds like Carter USM on steroids.
Unsurprisingly, the set is dotted with songs from his 2013 album, Tape Deck Heart, with Losing Days a Wonderstuff-sized behemoth, Recovery a joyous romp and The Way I Tend To Be a defiant folk-punk titan.
Meanwhile Glory Hallulujah, from England Keep My Bones, is dastardly blasphemous and provocative yet chirpier than Christmas.
But it’s not just about rabble-rousing. Lit eerily by a sole spotlight, Journey Of The Magi is a plaintive, pared-down number, the toil and tether defined in Turner’s voice as he growls the chorus and uses reverb to push home the underlying message of hope, while his most personal and painful song, Father’s Day, is unifying.
Always the patriot, Turner’s To Take You Home is a harrowing story of a failed romantic trip to Paris, Wessex Boy a homeward-bound ode to his roots.
In the encore, The Balled Of Me And My Friends is delicate, I Believe is Olympic-sized and Four Simple Words merges West End musicality with Muse’s bombast and pomp.
Turner spans genres, crosses boundaries and builds sturdy bridges from folk to punk-rock with consummate ease. There is no sign of his return to the city’s smaller venues for a while yet.