Frank Turner has come a long way in the last seven years – from ex-hardcore artist to small-time singer songwriter to fronting his own band on a sell out stadium tour – and that journey was reflected in his show on Tuesday night.
Turner’s band, the Sleeping Souls, have moved closer to the fore with each album and each tour, and it was as a full ensemble that they kicked into their performance with a rousing rendition of Photosynthesise, immediately whipping the crowd up before Plain Sailing Weather and Peggy Sang the Blues.
It was a mixed bag that turned out for the performance, from parents and teenagers to punk rockers and folky kids with straggly beards, and they got a mixed bag of a setlist too, ranging widely over his five studio albums.
On songs such as Losing Days, Glory Hallelujah and Reasons Not to be an Idiot, the singer seemed confident, bouncing with an energy and enthusiasm that was contagious, seeming more sober and at home in his own skin than previously.
There were more muted points too: Sweet Albion Blues, while a raucous slice of blues, harked back to the true folk music that is an obvious influence on Turner’s music, and after declaring his determination to play old songs too, it was a very odd, almost orchestral full-band version of Father’s Day that got played.
To Take You Home, prefaced by a bittersweet reflection on the woman who inspired it, Wessex Boy, and Polaroid Picture all showed the reluctantly maturing man behind the music, reflecting on his roots, his mistakes, and accepting that things change, pass away, but that people grow from it all.
Eulogy and I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous sandwiched a brief aside regarding the uncool nature of the singer, and his resolute hope that he will always remain uncool, and play music for all. But the songs themselves remain impressive clarion calls, folk-punk calls to arms, shouting from the rooftops about the need to push forward, and the Pavilions crowd responded in fine voice once more.
The gig came to a peak with the frenzy of a crowd all jumping-jacking to Recovery, before closing up with the wistful Broken Piano.
After a short break Turner returned, solo, to announce that he would admit his mistakes and play a song he had foolishly vowed never to perform again, before the first anthemic chords of his solo acoustic The Ballad of Me and my Friends, which was followed by torch song I Still Believe, in what was one last burst of rock n roll fervour.
The set ended on a slightly bum note, with Four Simple Words. One of the weaker tracks off new album Tape Deck Heart (highly recommended, especially the title track), it’s refrain of “I want to dance” fit the set, but there were many better songs, left unplayed, that would have left the kids (and the adults) singing out long into the night.
Oddly for a Frank Turner gig, there were no covers, but with such a back catalogue there wasn’t necessarily the need.
As an artist and a person, he’s put in a lot of miles and seen a lot of things, and Tape Deck Heart and the songs he’s touring reflect that. It’s also something a lot of the people in the crowd will have shared, reflecting upon the scenes been and gone, but still revelling in their evenings in the crowd, at the bar, and ultimately in the moment.
In the end, it’s still not all about the destination, but the journey has been pretty fucking good so far.