Frank Turner is a local phenomenon. Based in Winchester he is renowned for being one of the very hardest working performers in modern music. From humble beginnings his stock rose when he was invited by Danny Boyle to open the London 2012 Olympics. Since then his latest album Tape Deck Heart has received great reviews and featured very high up in my own top 50’of 2013, his latest UK tour has taken him to some of the largest venues in the country including headlining the O2 in London but he chose Portsmouth for his return to Hampshire and the end of his current tour. Needless to say, his appearance at the cities Guildhall sold out quicker than any of his other gigs so a special night was expected.
Before that though, we were fortunate that he also chose to perform a shorter set at local (and legendary) record cafe Pie & Vinyl where he played a set for 50 lucky fans including myself. Being such a small venue it gave a really intimate feel for someone who just 13 hours earlier was playing in front of over 20000 people. Accompanied on mandolin by Sleeping Souls member Matt Nasir, Frank played a 40 minute set where he promised a couple of songs from the evening with the rest being different to the night set. Starting with Recovery, opening track from Tape Deck Heart, with full backing vocals from the crowd it was clear we were in for a treat and so it proved.
Mixing some of his own work both old (The Real Damage, Balthazar Impresario) and newer (Recovery, Good and Gone) with cover versions including Frightened Rabbit’s The Modern Leper and then a superb Live and Let Die. We were also treated to 2 new songs – for which Frank politely asked for phones to go away so they didn’t end up on You Tube, one all about spring and then a tennis themed love song (yes really). All too quickly the set was closed with crowd pleasing Photosynthesis (usually his closing song live). It didn’t end there, Frank stayed for an hour signing records and having photos. Basically making everyone’s day. All of this with, in his words, a massive hangover!
A tremendous start to the day and one that everyone from Pie & Vinyl deserve praise for pulling off such a coup. If you’ve not been there then go. You will not regret it.
Onto the evening and it was off to the cities largest venue, the Guildhall. This was the full set we expected and also offered the opportunity to see some support acts too.
Opening up was Frank’s mate Jay who everyone knows as Beans on Toast. Jay has been attributed by Frank for converting him from punk to become the acoustic, folk singer he is today. His set, full of songs of protest, observation and chicken farming kept the, ever increasing, crowd happy with plenty of laughs and fun. Beans on Toast also played a post gig set outside in guildhall square after the gig.
Next up Flogging Molly, described as a Celtic punk band, they certainly got the crowd going with a blistering, raucous set allowing front man Dave to fully enjoy himself. Similar in style to the pogues they were also hand picked by Frank as a thank you for helping him launch his career over in the states. With this being the last night of the tour it’s fair to say they had a blast and a huge percentage of the now packed Guildhall were happy to be taken along for the ride.
But enough of the warm up, it was time for the man everyone came to see. Unusually, Frank opened with traditional closer Photosynthesis but it was a master stroke. From the opening 1,2,1,2,3,4 the entire crowd sang, danced and generally had a blast and whilst we didn’t ‘sit down’ – a tradition – we were ready for a fun filled evening.
The opening tracks came at a pace. Plain Sailing Weather, Peggy Sang the Blues, Losing Days, Try This At Home. Each song enthusiastically met by the crowd and equally enjoyed by both Frank and the Sleeping Souls.
The gig saw a mix of tracks from his new album with some old crowd favourites from his entire back catalogue, as Frank himself pointed out he was not only going to play only his new stuff like some (coughing a suggestion who does do this). He certainly was happy not just to hide behind the band too, a delightful solo version of Redemption gave everyone a chance to catch their breath. But this was a night for fun and the occasional funny story for example admitting he once had a relationship,with a girl before not recognising her in a pub (forgetting that his mum was in the crowd and apologising to her for it!). Each story punctured by yet another great song it soon became evident that this was a special night indeed.
Recovery was accompanied by a challenge to see which crowd was the best on tour, Frank wanted everyone to perform jumping jacks along with the chorus. To assist the crowd and in keeping with the last night of the tour fun, he was joined by a large number of the crew all dressed in animal onesies. Needless to say this crowd were up for it and safely secured that title with some ease.
21 songs in and it was time for a short interlude before a blistering encore, starting with one of his oldest songs (which at Wembley he vowed never to play again) The Ballad of Me and My Friends. Then the sleeping souls came back to join him for I Still Believe, the song seen by billions at the Olympics and closing number Four Simple Words. A fitting and very energetic ending to almost 2 hours of a man at his peak and possibly one of the last times a venue in the city will be big enough to host him.
This is the 6th and 7th time I have seen Frank and despite being at Wembley, I can safely say that twice in one day he managed to beat my best Frank gig experience. I have not see. Such communal euphoria at the guildhall ever and have witnessed moments when every single person in the crowd was totally into the gig. Let’s be honest, how often do you go to a gig where you can count the amount of phones being held up on one hand!