How to make friends and influence people
Despite it being a Sunday night, which means disastrous public transport links, there is still a healthy turn out at the Retro Bar for Frank Turner's first gig (Reuben tour aside) in Manchester since the demise of Million Dead. It's a small intimate venue and although the crowd isn't massive it looks quite full as people move to the front as Frank steps up.
It's rather strange seeing him standing up there alone with only an acoustic guitar for company but the moment passes as he kicks off proceedings with 'The Real Damage' (from his recent demo). This follows the tradition of artists such as Richard Thompson and Billy Bragg in that it tells a tale of contemporary life with irony and humour. Those sentiments have always been present in Frank's lyrics but in this bare environment they are much more to the fore, the sound is good and it's clear that he has a voice suited to the music in so much as it's not pretentious or overbearing.
There's some decent guitar work on 'This town aint big enough for the one of me', which again is a song that many will relate to and therein lies much of the appeal. Despite the style and the lack of a backing band Frank still manages to deliver a performance full of passion, his vocals are edgy and his accessible interaction with the crowd continues to make him friends.
More tracks from the demo get aired ('Romatic Fatigue' and 'Sunshine State') as well as a Propaghandi cover 'Refusing To Be A Man' before the set is rounded off unsurprisingly with a Million Dead song, although as he rightly points out, this isn't the Million Dead acoustic show! 'Smiling at Strangers on Trains' predictably gets the biggest crowd reaction and gives the faithful the chance to sing along before it's all over. It's early days but Mr Turner is making nice inroads down his chosen path, some of the material is not as strong but no doubt over time those songs will get weeded out. Cambridge Folk Festival next year then?!