A Solid Set
I haven't followed Frank Turner around the UK, but it wouldn't surprise me if on reflection this goes down as a show where he was made to work a bit.
This set at the Peel in Kingston was part of an evening with a number of acoustic based artists playing half hour slots, with a surprisingly quick turn around in between each. Others on the bill included Walter Schreifels once of Rival Schools.
For this reason not all those present would have been there for Frank, and this showed as the gig wore on, with many nearer the back choosing to talk to each other rather than watch and listen to what was going on in front of them.
The venue wasn't packed, and although a minority seemed disinterested, the majority present were hooked by his humourous, often gripping lyrics, and carried along by a collection of folk songs with attitude. Many of these have a catchiness any pop act could dream for.
A couple of highlights from this strong set included 'Romantic Fatigue' and 'Nashville Tennessee'. Prior to 'Romantic Fatigue', by way of demonstrating it's meaning, Turner asked all who could play the guitar to put their hands up. Then those who'd ever written a song on it were asked to keep them in the air. Finally only those who'd written a love song for a girl who'd been distinctly under whelmed by the gift were asked to keep their hands up. This audience interaction was an excellent touch - at the risk of turning his shows into something like a children's party, more of that might have had the mind wanderers at the back onside.
His short but impressive collection of songs was brought to a close by a cover of Abba's 'Dancing Queen'. Certainly not one which many might have expected, this twist meant he left the stage with the crowd on a high, you can't beat the strong lasting memory of a gig which set closers can provide.
Frank Turner comes across onstage as the sort of bloke you'd be likely to meet in the pub round the corner, and would be very glad of his company. I suspect he will have to go through many more gigs, where his attempt to engage with his audience by explaining the meanings behind each song will be lost on some, even if it is done in a way full of humour.
You can't fault his talent as a songwriter or performer. He is one who you should be making the effort to see live, and in small venues too, where his music really works.