Thursday, 25 March 2010

Frank Turner - Camden Roundhouse - Wednesday 24th March 2010

The rise of Frank Turner has, to say the least, been unexpected. This is a man who was educated at Eton and LSE yet was a rebel at heart, playing first with alternative rockers Kneejerk during his school days and later becoming vocalist of influential hardcore punk act Million Dead. The band split up in 2005 and Frank embarked on a full-time solo career. His rise to the top has been rapid and, in keeping with his punk credentials, without the mainstream radio fanfare that so many acts rely upon. Tonight sees his biggest headline show to date (at least until December when he is scheduled to headline Brixton!) and the Roundhouse is packed. This is a man who has moved effortlessly from playing on his own to 100 people in a pub to playing to 3500 in a place like this.

Indeed Frank has grown to such an extent that supporting him on this recent UK tour has been Chuck Ragan (yes the one who used to sing in Hot Water Music). I arrive just in time to see Chuck take to the stage, sadly missing highly rated folk-punkers Crazy Arm (I misread the show time on the tickets because I am a stupid fool like that sometimes). For those who aren't familiar with any of his work Ragan sings a little like a more hardcore version of Mark Lanegan. His songs are undeniably impressive works, complimented by a superb backing band while Frank demonstrates his admiration for Ragan by joining him onstage for a brief duet. Having not heard any of his solo music before I am now determined to hear some more.

By the time Frank Turner himself takes to the stage a singalong hungry crowd ready and waiting for him. At least half the people in the Roundhouse tonight seem perfectly willing and able to scream along to the man's most memorable anthems, such as opener "Photosynthesis" and (my personal favourite Frank song) "I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous". Many are familiar with the rarities that creep into the set as well, "Once We Were Anarchists" being especially superb. Whilst Frank's backing band are solid and help add depth to his songs this is an artist reliant on his songwriting touch, writing lyrics that can be cynical, affecting and heartwarming all at the same time. Sometimes it almost feels as if the songs aren't suited to such a cavernous place but they are still pulled off with a fine degree of aplomb and the set whizzes by, only with the occasional pause for Frank to exclaim his joy at peforming the show or to rant about the state of British politics. The real Dan of "Dan's Song" comes onstage for the song after which he is named and Chuck Ragan and friends join him for a cover of his own song to open up the encore and, after a storming performance of "The Road", Frank returns solo for a closing rendition of "The Ballad Of Me And My Friends", that still manges to feel intimate somehow despite the size of the venue. It's wonderful to see that an artist such as Frank, someone who should be a mainstream outsider by all usual parameters, can get so far and attract so many new fans. It's easy to moan about the taste of the music buying population of Britain today but sometimes they get things right, as they have done with Biffy Clyro in the last few years, and this is another shining example. Just don't leave the smaller venues totally behind please Frank!

Chuck Ragan - 7/10
Frank Turner - 8/10

Frank Turner setlist
Try This At Home
Once We Were Anarchists
Richard Devine
The Real Damage
Poetry Of The Deed
Father's Day
Back In The Day
Dan's Song (+ Dan)
Jet Lag
To Take You Home
Our Lady Of The Campfire
Long Live The Queen
Sons Of Liberty
I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous
Reasons Not To Be An Idiot

Revival Song (w/ Chuck Ragan + others)
St. Christopher Is Coming Home
The Road

The Ballad Of Me And My Friends

1 comment:

  1. Great review, I saw him a few weeks ago in Manchester and he blew me away (he kept saying how it was the biggest headlining gig he'd ever done but I suppose it didn't take long to do an even bigger one!)
    Gutted you missed Crazy Arm, I hadn't heard of them before the night but I was pretty impressed, worth looking up!