Sunday, 14 September 2014

924 FRANK TURNER AND THE SLEEPING SOULS, Koo Koo Kanga Roo, Salisbury City Hall, Saturday 13 September 2014

My Autumn Dance card starts in earnest with this one, another Frank Turner show, mere months after opening my account with this extraordinarily talented and perceptive punk/ folk influenced wordsmith and balladeer (in the truest sense of the word; a travelling troubadour musician flitting from town to town, telling stories and reflecting incisively on the issues of the day, rather than just some jumped up hair band vocalist singing pseudo-romantic plodding slush from some drippy rom-com soundtrack). Well, after so long missing out on Frank’s talent, I’ve got some ground to make up, so I was all over the pre-sale for this one, selecting Salisbury rather than Bath or Oxford as it fell on a Saturday!
I dragged an initially reluctant Rachel along for this one – well, she likes Gaz Brookfield, I figured, so she should like Frank! – as we made our way down for only our second ever gig in Old Sarum (the only other occasion being Julian Cope at this very venue, gig 460, a mere 14 years ago!). A leisurely drive through rural Wiltshire’s villages saw us, thanks to good directions and navigation from my sweet Rachey, parking up behind the venue at 1/4 to 8. However we had to fully circumnavigate said venue just to find the entrance, tucked away in a rear courtyard! Not the only issue with this venue tonight, as it transpired...
Support Koo Koo Kanga Roo, despite having Frank’s personal ringing endorsement, were terrible; 2 idiots in sweatpants jumping up and down to a muffled hip-hop backing track, singing “songs” about dinosaurs and fanny packs. Allegedly Frank’s initial reaction to them was, “what the fuck?” before warming to them. Me, I’m still on that first reaction… Maybe passable as first warm-up on a They Might Be Giants kiddies matinee show, they were wholly inappropriate for a rock gig, although Rach was left considering booking them for the next school disco… So we sought shelter and refreshment in the packed foyer, only to find the queues for both bars immobile and about 20 deep! Massive queues for the tiny loos as well; it’s no wonder this venue doesn’t host gigs more regularly, given its’ wholly inadequate facilities…
Anyway, we popped back in and found a pocket of space towards the front, stage left, then the lights dimmed at 9 and Frank and the band, uniformly white-shirted, took the stage in short order and rocked straight into the ramshackle sea shanty opener of “Try This At Home”. Straight away the whole audience was enthusiastically singing and clapping along, totally engaged and swept up in the inclusiveness of the Frank Turner “live” experience. A tremendous mandolin-powered “Losing Days” (reminding me of James’ 80’s classic “What For”) preceded Frank welcoming us to, “show 1609!” before introducing the first of a smattering of new numbers and asking 2 requests of us; firstly, no filming during the newies (“film the rest of the show, I don’t care!”) and secondly, treat them like the old numbers! The audience responded perfectly to the speedy, off-kilter rollercoaster ride of “Out Of Breath”, the best newie on offer tonight.
Once again Frank was on top form; a born performer, charismatic, voluble and gregarious, a lot to say both in song and between, relating to the audience in this large hall as if we were a group of friends in a pub back room (still kicking myself about not turning on to Frank earlier and thereby missing the chance to see him in those type of venues!). Following a rambunctious “Reasons Not To Be An Idiot”, an energetic Frank remarked, “I have to address the issue of my untied shoelace or I’ll fall over and kill myself!” before the raw, passionate, backlit rendition of the Dashboard Confessional-alike “Disappeared”, an early highlight. This however was topped by a solo “Better Half”, which Frank claimed to only have played 3 times ever, but which was delivered brilliantly, with scary conviction and heart-cracking emotion as raw as his strained but passionate delivery.
We were regaled by an account of a 1998 Salisbury show for Frank’s old band, in which they turned up only to find they were double booked, told politely to fuck off, then ended up playing to 3 people at The Hobgoblin pub! A bit of a change to tonight, in which “Photosynthesis” saw this sell-out crowd all sitting down during the middle eight (not so fond of this, due to my dodgy knees…), before the hoe-down denouement saw everyone jumping about. A suspenseful “Plain Sailing Weather” followed, building to another passionate crescendo, then Frank introduced another newie “Get Better” (“about trying to get better… ha!”), with, “one more new song, then it’s wall to wall hits! I’m talking Bon Jovi, Squeeze, Del Amitri…!” No Dels though, but instead we got the jolly maypole dance of “Recovery”, with a crew member acting as dance instructor, before a toughened up set closer “Long Live The Queen” which nevertheless featured a slow, stripped back finale, showing how much this song – and the audience’s reverential singalong – still means to him, maaaan.
The encore highlight of “I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous” preceded another lengthy monologue from the man, thanking us for selling out tonight and reflecting on his current success (“I’ve been asked on this tour, why are you playing small venues [after playing arenas earlier this year]… there’s NO WAY this is a small venue!”), then a punk rock “Four Simple Words” brought a consummate 1 hour 45 performance to a close. Another fairly simple set-list later, we joined the queue to get out, as the entire audience was uncomfortably funnelled out through the small entrance, instead of opening up the fire exits at the back of the venue, again showing this venue’s complete unpreparedness for such a gig. Then a swift drive back in inky blackness, nonetheless reflecting on another excellent Frank Turner show!

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