“If your too cool to play an imaginary instrument in a darkened room full of drunken strangers, then you’re at the wrong F–king show….”
That was there gist of the message presented midway through this (and really any that I know of) Frank Turner show. He’s up there having a damn good time, and it’s his personal mission to assure that everyone in the crowd is as well. If that means coaxing a few hundred people to make funny noises through their hands during “Dan’s Song” or making everyone sing “…I won’t sit down, and I won’t shut up, and most of all I won’t grow up…” to close the show, then that’s what he’ll do.
But don’t mistake him for the court jester or some novelty act. There’s real bite behind most of his songs…religion, politics, revolution and death are all fair game and he’s not shy about voicing his opinions about each. But no matter if you agree or disagree with his views, the ultimate goal is positive, fun and mostly about savoring the moments of life that rush by us all.
It’s such a pleasure to see someone who is obviously doing exactly what they were put here on earth to do. Frank Turner belongs on stage as much as anyone I’ve seen at his age and stage of their career. It honestly wouldn’t matter if there were four or forty thousand in the crowd. (Both are sizes of crowds he’s reported played to already in his solo career). His commitment to performing won’t vary.
There is an infectious joy to his performance that I hesitate to compare to anyone…because that sort of thing is just flat out unfair to both sides. (A classic example is of course the whole Springsteen = New Dylan thing from the 70’s)….
Frank isn’t the “new” anyone. He’s just a guy who writes some awesome music and (pretty obviously) loves performing those same songs. That being said, I told Julie (who I hauled 200+ miles with me to see the show), that he does remind me of a young Springsteen…but not so much in musical style…but, in that he has that same passion and love for what he’s doing that I saw in 1978 at my first Springsteen show on the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour. I recall being floored by the energy and connection to the crowd that Bruce had, in fact…that show still remains my single favorite show I’ve seen ever. I see some of that same sort of potential in Frank. In some ways seeing Frank now feels to me a little like having been lucky enough to have seen Bruce in the Stone Pony around 1972 or Pink Floyd at the UFO on Tottenham Court Road in the 60’s. Someone who is on the cusp stardom, with only a small core of early adoptors who are there right now to experience the potential first hand.
Now, I know how the music industry chews up and spits out people. But, I really think that he has a good chance to overcome the hazards and carve out a long career.
So, about the SLO show.
Milow, a Belgian singer/songwriter opened with a half an hour of decent solo guitar music. Nothing that totally grabbed me, but pleasant enough. He had a nice engaging personality and filled the opening slot just fine. The was supposed to be a second band “The Sharks”, but it was explained they through some schedule mix up had begun the day in Las Vegas and were unable to make it to San Luis Obispo in time for the show. I can’t say they were missed that much, as it allowed more time for a full set by Frank.
Pretty much he played a setlist that I could have written if I’d sat down an listed out my favorites from the new CD “England Keep My Bones”, a smattering of older classics, a couple rarities, a new song and a cover. A well paced and thought out set.
Opening (as the new CD does) with “Eulogy” leading into “Peggy Sang the Blues”. From there he headed into his back catalog to pull out a song from each of his previous CD’s, “The Road” and “I knew Prufrock before he was Famous”.
“I am Disappeared”, one of the most interesting cuts from the new CD was up next. With its interesting references to Dylan, Hemingway it’s grown to become my favorite cut on the new CD. “Love, Ire and Song” then lead into “Substitute” and then the rarely played “Nights Become Days”. I suppose I should mention that Frank was hampered a bit at this show by a severely twisted ankle that relegated him to bar stool for the show. He apologized for not being able to move around, but I found the music compelling and the band engaging enough that it really didn’t matter a whole lot. There’s more to rocking out than jumping around, and Frank had plenty of energy playing from his center stage perch.
Another rarity followed “The Fastest Way Home”, then Dan’s Song with the previously noted air harmonica solos by the entire crowd. “Long Live the Queen” (his wonderful ode to a friend who passed away) was followed by his mission statement “If Ever I Stray” and the new song “Polaroid Picture” which is (amongst other things) about the tearing down of the Astoria in London to build a commuter rail station.
“Glory Hallelujah” (which I spent some time on in a previous review), “Try this at Home”, “I Still Believe” and the closer of Queens “Somebody to Love” brought the set to rousing close. Due to his injury, Frank simply turned around with his back to the audience rather than hobble off stage.
Turning back to face us, he played a rare version of “Sunshine State”, written from London about his California girlfriend who (apparently) really messed him over, thankfully he seems to have forgiven the rest of the state. Another rarity followed in “The Next Round” and he closed the set with a rousing version of “Photosynthesis” having played a solid near two hours, bad ankle and all.
I honestly didn’t figure he’d come out and mingle with the fans, but after a short break he hobbled out and posted himself center stage to pose for photos and chat with anyone still in the bar. This is what I mean about him getting it….he totally seems to love connecting with folks, interacting and just chatting. When I walked over he remembered me from Pomona and greeted me by name. He even recalled that I’m a Springsteen fan and recommended that I listed to some friends he’d toured with called Lucero. Just a totally nice guy, who loves playing, performing and music in general.
How can you not root for someone genuine like that to achieve success in a world full of pre-packaged pop?
I’m seeing him twice more this week, so not sure what else I may be able to say. Except, go see him….see him now before he’s playing huge venues and you won’t have the chance to interact and hang out with a very talented guy.
Here’s a semi-live version of “I am Disappeared”…chosen for better sound quality.