Frank Turner – HMV Hammersmith Apollo
aaamusic | On 04, Dec 2011
London, 27th November 2011
Well, it’s finally happened. Frank Turner got to a point that all bands and artists who properly make it go though. He’s reached the point where all the posers who have some misguided sense that Frank’s music (that is to say, the music that is Frank’s, although he’d hate to put it like that, and can do with it what he pleases) is theirs and theirs alone have what is, in their mind, incontrovertible evidence that Frank has committed the cardinal sin of Punk Rock, and “SOLD OUT”. How he’s done that, you ask? Well he’s played the biggest headline show of his career at a colossal venue, to a sell out crowd. One might doubt how implacable that proof might be but it runs deeper than that, the whole tour, all six dates of it, were sold out, he had a (relatively) well known band opening for him (The utterly remarkable Against Me! by the way, more on them elsewhere in this great site), latest album England Keep My Bones went top twenty and regularly gets radio play, and, finally, on April 13th 2012, Frank will headline Wembley Arena, to a prospective 12’000 people.
So this tour is a massive turning point for Frank, and one that a lot of lesser artists do not survive, the point where a lot of the original fanbase might turn their back in disgust and stop listening. For one, if it does mean Frank loses an audience, it means that Frank has lost an audience of close minded, pretentious white boys who cling to the notion that the idea of Punk that their dad grew up with still means something (temporarily anyway, they’re bound to grow up at some point and realize the error in their ways) which can only be a good thing, but one might worry at the other thing it means, where others might struggle to find a mainstream audience after the grassroots following has moved on. But here’s the thing, Frank won’t have to worry about that at all, he won’t even have to worry about courting a mainstream audience, his music transcends that, he’ll “go mainstream” the same way that Springsteen or Dylan ever went mainstream, by simply being that damn good. Good enough to convert anyone with a broad musical taste. Tonight is an omen, a sign, for that very future, having an enormous room sing their collective heart out, united by the redemptive power some of the best straight-up Rock and Roll this century has produced.
Coming as the last show of the tour, and before that taking in a 2 and a half month long tour of the U.S and Canada, Frank and his ever-present backing band The Sleeping Souls are utterly on fire, gliding effortlessly into Frank’s manifesto of a pop song Eulogy as an opener, followed by the little over two minute punk thrash of Try This At Home, followed by one of his biggest hits, The Road. If anyone in the standing section wasn’t going mental before this, they are now, as the entire lower half of the venue bounds in unison, howling Turner’s life affirming lyrics. Just as they should.
There are so many things that make this a truly great night, the songs are only the most obvious, the lesser spotted likes of Nights Become Days (backed by other support act Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo on violin, cello and accordion) and Father’s Day sounding right at home along with the anthems that Turner seems to be so adept at writing. But there’s also the more subtle touches, Frank’s charming stage banter that the vast majority of the crowd could listen to all night (it’s unsurprising that Frank considered becoming a stand up so he’d have an excuse to tour after his old band Million Dead broke up but didn’t think he was funny enough. He’s wrong, but I’m not complaining…), Nigel Powell and Matt Nasir, Sleeping Souls’ drummer and keyboardist respectively, sharing a bro hug before the final chorus of Photosynthesis and the way Frank’s voice cracks during The Road due to sheer joy at the reception he’s getting are the perfect reminders that this night is as much of a special moment for everyone onstage as it is for the audience. And in that way, tonight is the encapsulation of everything Frank Turner tries to do with his life, he wants to unite. It doesn’t matter who, it doesn’t matter where, but he will try his hardest to unite everyone present at any given opportunity, using only the power of Rock and Roll. And if he plays every show he does after tonight with the same intensity, power and skill, he will succeed.
Author: Will Howard