Monday, August 22, 2011

Live Review: Frank Turner, O2 Academy Newcastle, 06/08/2011

This was supposed to be my write up of Newcastle's two day Ignition festival, but that event was pulled last minute due to residential complaints and incompetence on the part of the organisers. Never one to let down his fans, Frank Turner instead took it upon himself to organise this short notice show in the city, with those who had held festival tickets granted free entry. Now I know that it's little over a month since I covered his gig in Whitley Bay, so I may be at risk of repeating myself here but fuck it, Frank Turner rules, and if this persuades anyone to check him out live or on record then it'll have been worth my while.

Clearly, the man deserves immense credit for cobbling together this show, a move which more than backs up his growing reputation as a man of the people. Moreover, though, Turner is an incredible hard worker, as evidenced by the fact that this was his 1,068th show of a solo career which only began four years ago. In that time, he's seen the venues he plays upgrade and his audiences swell, yet he still seemed taken aback by the tremendous reception he was afforded by the sizeable crowd that had gathered. As you'd expect, most of those present were established fans, but there was also a scattering of curious onlookers who you suspect will have enjoyed themselves just as much as everyone else in attendance.

As you'd expect Turner pumped in just as much energy and enthusiasm as he does with any show, and seemed completely unfazed by the fact that the venue was larger than he is perhaps used to. It does, of course help when you're playing to a crowd that hangs on your every word, and those loyal followers were treated to a storming hour and a half set which provided a near-perfect blend of old and new. Recent album England Keep My Bones was inevitably the best represented, but such is it's quality it'd come as little surprise if most of these songs remain set staples for years to come.

One thing that all these new songs have in common is that they're already treated like old favourites, particularly "I Still Believe," which was ignited by the particularly vocal crowd. This gig really came to life towards the end of the main set, though, when a succession of classics stepped things up a notch. On record, "Sons Of Liberty" is momentous beast, but it's a song which really comes into it's own in the live setting, especially when backed by hundreds of voices during it's epic finale. "The Road," while not a personal favourite of mine, did a great job at cranking up energy levels, while the untouchable "Long Live The Queen" was transformed from the solemn tear-jerker it is on record into a glorious celebration of life.

Crowd participation levels reached a new level on shout-along anthem "Photosynthesis," something which was encouraged by Turner to prevent him becoming "some sort of bastard dictator" (his words). The same was true of closer "The Ballad Of Me And My Friends," the entirety of which he let the crowd sing while he left the stage to join it. When he finally departed, it was to admiring chants of "hero" from the majority of those gathered, and it was this more than anything else which seemed to sum up what was for all parties a pretty special night. Two days of mostly decent-ish music, or an hour and a half of Frank Turner? I know which one I'd take.

Frank Turner's ongoing tour in support of England Keep My Bones includes a host of autumn US dates, which you can see here. Get yourself along to one of the shows - you won't be disappointed.

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