Frank Turner @ Brixton Academy

12th December 2010

Our final live event of 2010 was another trip down to south london to the Brixton academy to see a man who we have championed from the very beginning. Between tiny tents at Reading Festival, Bristol’s Dot2Dot festival, Shepherds Bush Empire and Glastonbury this will be the fifth time of seeing the punk turned acoustic troubadour Frank Turner. Tonight his coming of age is complete, filling the largest non arena venue in London town. I have to say, it is totally deserved!

He had an impressive set of support bands as well tonight, kicking off with his old pals Dive Dive who for a long time formed his backing band during his earlier years. It is a same to report that we only managed to catch the last 5 minutes of a set which was clearly energising the early arrivals. From what I caught, they were a lively bunch of indie rockers with a dash of punk on a bed of pop. Set closer Liar was a rampant rocking tune which was both infectious and pumped up. Ones to keep an eye on.

Now Mr. Flowers was looking forward to the next act as much as our headliner, the irrepressable indie man and acoustic/folk stalward Ed Harcourt. The performance was enjoyable, but contained few highlights and was a rather drab, somewhat sombre affair. In this gigantic venue, Ed’s indie folk style, outstanding musicianship and unique vocals did not quite have the power to match the poignant lyrics or the grand venue. Focusing almost exclusively on new material, this was a slightly disappointing set which failed to really grab the crowds attention. I can’t help but feel that in a smaller venue, Ed will reap much greater success.

Conversely Frank Turner is made for the larger venues, his anthemic acoustic rock tunes gave an immediate adrenaline hit to those left a bit vacant after Ed’s set. His honest punk-folkster appeal and his enigmatic stage presence combined to instantly win over this huge crowd. Tonights setlist was a true greatest hits set with all his highlights bundled in, including the triumphant rousing ode to a lost friend Long Live The Queen, the fixating storytelling of I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous, the family tensions of Father’s Day,  the gig circuit tales of The Road and the tribute to travel, experiences and companionship with The Ballad Of Me And My Friends. As seems to be customary he threw in another folk acappela english folk song, this one was called The English Curse and showed his full blooded english character to the fullest.

Frank intersperced his hits with songs from his latest Rock N’ Roll EP which was only released a few days previous. This is a bit of a disappointment as there probably wasnt as many people familiar with these songs before they got a live airing, Despite this this new material was instantly lovable. Honest and heartfelt lyrics sung with conviction and passion which not only have mega catchy vocal hooks, but damn good pop melodies too. The standout from these new songs was definitely I Still Believe, another one of Frank’s songs which resonates with the rock and roll heart beating thoughout each and every one of us. It’s this passion and former anarchic tendencies which found more than usual comon ground tonight what with a more politically motivated set choices getting full rousing support from the packed in ensemble.

This was by far the most accomplished performance Ive seen from Mr. Turner, I put this down to that fact that he actually has a full time band now. So instead of a lievly band playing another guys songs, you had musicians who are dedicated to makeing each night better than the last. This energy and excelling in musical showmanship set these renditions apart from their predecessor airings. Ed Harcourt appeared to signal the end of proceedings as he played Mandolin on an epically uplifting version of Photosynthesis,  which rounded off the night in jubilant style.

So another year another triumph and with a new album due out in 2011, expect this year to be even bigger than the last! Where next? Arena Tours? Stadium Gigs? Who knows? But we’ll be there to chart it.

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