The prestigious Frank Turner has been a head turner for quite some time. Since his flash-fire popularity garnered him huge respect and reception through the 2010’s, it’s been clear that his talent for punky folk anthems is far from one-hit-wonder material. Now, with a brand new album on the way from the pre-millennial boy wonder, a bright-eyed tour to promote the material leaves the dazzled denizens of Plymouth on the familiar floors of The Junction with nothing but acoustic anthems to quench their gig deprived thirsts.
A decided buzz of energy floated through the open windows of the small characterful pub once doors flung themselves open. Gaggles of cheery south-westerners quickly filled the place from corner to corner, donning merch of their favorite bands to meet the mark of the evening. Their faces gleamed with a cheery drunkenness that no-doubt brought itself about through the long-forgotten excitement felt in the pre-performance daze. It was a warm presence to be around, one that reignited the flame of my mid-teens that had me preoccupied with bands and gigs rather than sufficient self-care and studies. A good feeling to feel once again.
“I am neither shouty, nor beardy, nor manly” stated Guise, the night’s opener, comparing herself to that of the forthcoming Frank. It was met with a decided cheer from the frolic of fans in front of her, a call of acceptance of the talent she herself had on offer.
“How wonderful it is that we can all stand together in a cool punk venue after all this time” were the words that created the loudest cheer of the set. A theme of the night had finally been set. This was dedicated to the sorely missed year of opportunities for her and other musicians of her caliber.
The collection of songs found in Guise’s set offered a sweet and gentle range of themes, types and tones. All delightfully digestible in theory and delicious in execution, her fluttery voice and soothing acoustics swimming together across the heady crowd, it couldn’t have been a more pleasant start to the night. Aye, Mrs. Turner (yep, she’s Frank’s better half!) has indeed been a happy start to the sweaty mess that Frank Turner turned out to be.
Frank’s presence on stage is something larger than life. He embodies something that holds fun loving life affirming nature, simply by acting as and being himself. Here he is in his element, and lives for the cheers of the crowd – not in a self centered manner, but as a signal that he is doing his job right. The smile on his face after every applause says it all. Playing fan favorites in absolute dedication to the cause of absolute satisfaction, his voice belts the words of ‘Long Live The Queen’, ‘1933’ and ‘Recovery’ with all the body and energy as it would have been first time he’d performed them.
The sensation of the crowd connection is electric. It’s bonkers how much heart a single group of people can have. The folksiness of the night spurred on by the mandolin of Turner’s long time compadre Matt Nasir brings with it an absolute solidarity between the body of fans and he people playing to them. It felt utterly intimate. Song upon song of singalong spirit elevated that of every single person present in a way that only people like Frank can.
“The first rule of my shows: don’t be a dick.” Were the first words from his mouth on manning the stage.
“The second rule of my shows: if you know the words you have to sing along”
“The third rule is for Matt – Matt has been bullied into playing the mandolin, so if you hear him do something cool then you have to fuckin cheer”
Frank spent a lot of time during lockdown fighting for small grassroots venues and musical opportunities, proving his heart as a musician, and his words here further prove his worthiness as one of the greats. He’s not just here for the shits and giggles – he cares for the industry he works in so so much, for the people who are in attendance, for the goodness and betterment of things through the wonders of the musical arts. After all this time away from shows, gigs and venues, it’s an incredibly relieving feeling to have on hearing his words.
A gentle and welcome collection of songs from the new album due for release January next year were as appropriate as they were refreshing. There’s a defined difference in the style of Frank’s newer material – a softer sense of maturity that reflects his time spent locked in with the rest of us throughout the lockdown period. A song dedicated to his better half stood out as one of the lovelier parts of the night.
To be honest with you, I’d never heard a Frank Turner song until tonight. Shocking, I know. After hearing the man’s voice, hearing his heart, seeing what he can do to a crowd and feeling every visceral word he has to sing, shout and scream out into the night, it’s doubtless that he has found a fan in me. He’s utterly loveable without doing anything more than simple authenticity. An acoustic guitar, a talented mandolinist, some youthful words and a lot of love for the world he’s a part of…it’s electrifying to be a witness of.
“When looking forward to this tour I was terrified that nobody would come…so to see you all here is something i’m so grateful for. Thank you.”
The resounding cheer that followed Frank’s frankness was all the indication that he could possibly need. It’s far from over for you Mr. Turner, and Plymouth will always have a place for you.