The campfire is now a bonfire
Initially I think it a joyous event that Frank Turner has finally broken free from playing at the overpriced and acoustically poor Night & Day Café in Manchester but this euphoria is short lived when I venture downstairs at Joshua Brooks to be greeted with a tightly packed sea of humanity and some rather large pillars blocking the view to the stage for all but the tallest or most determined individuals.
At the same time however it’s great to see that his popularity just continues to grow and the turn out on this tour (with most of the dates being sold out) must surely be a welcome justification for all the hard slog he has put in over the last couple of years? With the new album being barely 2 weeks old it’s also a pleasant surprise that many of the crowd already have the words nailed and from the opening track ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous’ to the excellent sing along of new single ‘Photosynthesis’ they join in with rare enthusiasm. The newer tracks fit perfectly into the set and it really does make for an impressive show, gone are the days when you could pick on the odd track that fell a little short. Of the more recent tracks the pick of the bunch tonight is ‘Reasons Not to be an Idiot’, which has a great catchy riff and that simple but incredibly effective chord change that we’ve heard before on songs like ‘Vital Signs’.
It’s hard to imagine him playing without the full band these days and to be fair some of the songs just wouldn’t have the same effect without them. His voice does sound a little strained at times but that comes from giving it 100% at every show and somehow it always seems to hold out and makes for a unique and raw delivery. Of course with his debut album ‘Sleep is for the Week’ already being regarded as something of a past classic there is plenty of material aired from it tonight and old favourite ‘The Real Damage’ probably gets the loudest crowd participation of the night. Will Frank Turner ever again be able to close a set with anything other than ‘The Ballad of Me & My Friends’? Probably not for some time and with good reason as it just sums the whole night up perfectly, yet this is eclipsed by it’s predecessor in the set ‘Vital Signs’. This has always been a favourite of mine and tonight it’s just fantastic; I might not be able to see much of what’s going on up on stage but you can’t help but feed off the special energy that a sold out crowd has.
With the word on the street being that the next tour is being booked into Academy venues (albeit Academy 2 or 3), it’s not a bad return for a guy that was doing intimate shows to 20 people down at Retro bar not so long ago. The road to hell never looked so good.