Frank Turner @ Hammersmith Apollo

27th November 2011

Two very different acts were in the supporting bill this evening, one mellow one manic! The beautiful Aussie folk of Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo was up first. 4 striking ladies stood caressing evocative melodies from their instruments of choice. Most combinations of cello violin and guitar and voices are bound to be harmonious and these girls were no exception. Their  catchy little tunes were rather good easy listening ditty’s, pleasing all the plus ones in the house (of which there were many). The second support was a swing in the opposite direction, towards Turner’s younger anarchic punk days. Not one for the faint hearted/un-initiated.

Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo

Against Me! proclaimed as one of Frank’s most idolised punk bands came out kicking and screaming with all gun blazing making one hell of a guitar fuelled storm. Their recent records have been polished pop rock efforts with soarer chorus’s…tonight it was back to their punk roots as they barely took breath between songs all night. They crammed an improbable amount of high octane material into the set, providing a rockin’ runaway train which never stopped a rollin’.

Their fast, loud and loose ethic was the polar opposite of Barker that initially only engaged the hardcore punk fraternity stage front. By the end, even those plus ones were toe tapping (well some of them…generally while covering their ears).

As this is the fifth time of watching Frank, You would think I’d pretty much covered all of what he has to offer. Granted the usual courageous chorus of crowd voices singing every word was here in full force, as was his beautifully honest sentiment and superbly arranged live versions. For tonight I’m focusing on what was different and new in his repertoire, the evolution which keeps his band of followers coming back for more.

Not content to sit back on his laurels frank has continually improved his shows and his songs. He aired a new unreleased song called Cowboy Chords just because he thought it was time to play it. It was an emotional and sparce tune set to one acoustic guitar that showed off his prolific songwriting spirit and desire to play live music! His reworking of old tune Fathers Day was beautifully poignant and desolate, more in line with the sombre lyrical content.

Frank Turner

As expected he plucked a fair few tunes from his latest album, songs which were destined for venues such as this. Huge arrangements of multi-instrumental melodies were frequently backed by Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo adding a soft backing chorus of sweet vocals. Against Me! Even joined in on Franks atheist gospel song Glory Glory Hallelujah. This song was probably the biggest polarising point of the night. His spirited speech on religion (or non-religion in his case), was rather preachy, almost as if he was here to convert the fans to his beliefs.

He told us of him sitting outside on the steps of this very venue, dreaming of playing it one day. Usually this ‘I was like you’ nonsense is nothing more than a ploy to get the crowd in their corner. But with Frank I am absolutely inclined to believe him. He does not mix his words, and the ones he chooses are straight from the heart. He came…he rocked…he conquered Hammersmith.

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