Tuesday, 21 April 2015
Frank Turner Live!
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls,
9th April 2015, the Small Ballroom, Newcastle NSW Australia
It's not often I get out to gigs these days, but when I do, I make them count.
And so it was with some excitement that I approached this Frank Turner show in my old home town, but I misunderstood how much appeal he had in this city. and indeed this country. Sure he's been written about in these here pages, and indeed in the pages of various local music periodicals, but that doesn't always amount to a following. I assumed there'd only be about 20 people at this gig, but how wrong I was.
The Small Ballroom is a venue with an apposite name. Although whether it was a ballroom or not is a point of conjecture, it's bloody small, holding 350 people at the most. There's at least 200+ here tonight, which made things just comfortable enough.
Frank Turner both on stage and off, is a personable chap. He was out the front having a cigarette with fans before his set, and then he joined his support act Jon Snodgrass for a couple of songs from their duet album "Buddies". However he really shined on stage with his band the Sleeping Souls.
Even in the tiny venue and cramped stage, all 5 guys on stage played like it was their last ever gig on Earth. They threw everything they had at the songs and the energy was almost tangible. This didn't send the crowd into a moshpit frenzy however, but it did put the crowd into a lively mood. Everything they played was tight and rampaging. When playing my personal favourite "Try This At Home", which already is a fast song, was played so fast that even I felt breathless after singing along to it.
The sense of fun in the crowd was warm and genuine. The great thing about Frank's music is that the melodic, sing-along nature of it fosters a sense of uplift and community amongst those in the audience. And that's exactly what Frank likes at his shows - the crowd to be singing along in full voice and to make friends, both of which happened from where I was standing.
The real charm of Frank's work is to be literate and melodic all at once, but to turn those songs and experiences into pieces that can be enjoyed by large groups of people. He infuses his work with enough empathy that, even though we may not know exactly who Frank is singing about, the experience he sings about is often common to us all, even with the names changed.
A case in point is the track "Long Live The Queen", a song detailing the last few times Frank saw his good friend Lex, who was dying of cancer. As a communal sing-along, no-one in the crowd knew who Lex was, but we understand the significance of the story and can feel the pain of the writer. We all sang along with the lyrics knowing it could happen to someone we know. or already has. It is a true mark of Frank's artistry that he can take a personal story and turn it into a song that people on the other side of the world can sing their hearts out to with respect and reverence to the people depicted in the story, despite having never met them.
I walked out of the show a bigger fan than I already was to start with and that is a mark of quality of the performance. It was of such a high standard that I can't wait until he comes back next year (He says he's always in the country around Easter). I just hope that next year he brings his good mate Jay, aka Beans on Toast to the party.