So, Frank Turner is one of my favourites. This is the fourth time I’ve seen him the space of a year. At his last headline show I went to, he was playing to a packed out Wembley Arena for a one-off. This time, he’s at the 2000 capacity Margate Winter Gardens as part of his extensive UK tour playing much more intimate shows. Based on the shows I’d seen him play before, I had pretty high expectations for tonight, and needless to say, these were more than met.
Opening the show was Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun, a four-piece whose music blends folk, country, punk and hard rock. They were musically tight and delivered some great vocal harmonies, and got the crowd going with their upbeat energy. Tim Barry then brought a new dynamic to the evening. Formerly the front man of punk band Avail, Barry has since gone on to become a solo singer-songwriter, and tonight delivered a set of simple but effective acoustic folk numbers, performed with heartfelt honesty.
As always, Frank Turner absolutely nailed it. He opened with ‘I Am Disappeared’, gradually building up from the opening acoustic chords, through the pounding drumbeat to the explosive, sing-along chorus. Right away, he had the audience captivated. He performed a mix of songs from his earlier albums to his most recent, including all the classics from ‘The Road’ to ‘Substitute’ – songs that never get old no matter how many times you see him play them – and threw in a couple of new numbers as well, giving us a taster for his forthcoming album.
One of the best things about Frank Turner’s gigs is the atmosphere; the way everyone knows all the lyrics, and the way that that Frank interacts with the crowd and gets everyone involved. When he played ‘Four Simple Words’, he told us that there is an ongoing audience dance contest, and to give it our best shot; when the chorus kicked in, everyone obligingly rocked the fuck out. (Apparently we’re now in joint first place with Newcastle.)
As has become customary at Frank’s shows, his band The Sleeping Souls disappeared halfway through the set, leaving the singer alone with his acoustic guitar. He performed the upbeat ‘The Real Damage’ followed by the rather more melancholy ‘Worse Things Happen at Sea’, which he sung with truly moving passion and intensity. His band then returned to accompany him through the rest of the set, the highlights of which were ‘Peggy Sang the Blues’ and ‘I Still Believe’. Usually, Frank closes with fan favourite ‘Photosynthesis’; however, tonight he unexpectedly followed it with a punk rock rendition of ‘Dan’s Song’, complete with a stage dive that almost resulted in his getting lost in the crowd.
Frank Turner’s enthusiasm for making music makes him an exciting and inspiring live act, and whether you’re into the big sing-along songs you can dance to or prefer the slower, heartfelt acoustic numbers, there’s something for everyone. Although he’s more than capable of pulling off an epic performance at Wembley Arena, he’ll always be at home at smaller shows like this where he can really connect to the audience and deliver his songs on a personal level. Frank is always a pleasure to watch, and tonight has been an all-round fantastic show. If you haven’t seen him play yet, make sure you seize the next opportunity. I can guarantee you won’t regret it.