Review : Frank Turner @ Liverpool Uni

I love Frank Turner.  I think he is a fine man.  From the moment we stumbled across him in a side tent at Leeds Festival however many years ago it was, his tours and albums have been things I have looked forward to.

Frank (I feel wrong calling him by his surname) began a musical career with post-hardcore band Million Dead before embarking on a solo career playing acoustic guitar and writing songs with a fair folk feel.  That’s a very brief history.  Frank’s full story is long enough to have spawned a book (which included a book tour) and, very recently, a documentary film.

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I dislike the term “selling out” because I get why artists would make the most (financially) from their skills at the expense of some creative freedom.  Frank’s history is full of battles to reach people and a dislike of a fame first approach that shows such as X-Factor produce.  Somehow, to me, writing a book and making a film feels like it goes a little against a liberal punk ethos.

So with this show, Frank’s 1980th, moved to Mountford Hall at Liverpool University due to demand, was going to be interesting.  Is the Frank Turner I love getting too commercial?

The night’s entertainment was started by Esme Patterson who has a pleasant sound which was easy on the ear.  Her performance was quickly overshadowed by Felix Hagan and The Family.  When the lead singer (and two backing singers / dancers) come on stage after the rest of the band have started, you know confidence is not lacking.  When said male lead singer comes on stage after the rest of the band have started wearing a sleeveless t-shirt, bandana, guy-liner and a very fluffy scarf that looked more like a draft excluder, one worries that confidence turns to arrogance.

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Fortunately, Felix Hagan and The Family back up the bravado with catchy songs, fantastic vocals and killer solos that probably make them the best support band I’ve seen.  I would pay good money to see them headline their own tour.  Yes, they might be a little eccentric, a bit weird, but they’re also sassy and fabulous.

And so on to the main event.  It took barely 10 seconds of I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous for me to realise that my apprehension was misguided, and possibly also explain why Frank writes books and makes films.  When I saw Frank that first time, the side tent filled up so much that people were spilling outside, and that connection of Frank with his fans is what makes his shows.  I have never been to shows with such an atmosphere – hands wave, fists pump, people dance and jump or wave a cigarette lighter to every single song and hang on every single word.

There was crowd surfing (both Frank and his brother-in-law who surfed a piece of his own birthday cake to the sound desk), a randomly selected fan playing a harmonica solo and a Wall of Hugs, the idea of the latter being that, as a collective, we can be greater than the sum of our parts.  We should go to shows to make friends and build a community and have fun, together, because it makes things better.

That’s not to do a disservice to the music that was as energetic, as authentic and as emotional as ever, especially Long Live The Queen.  Frank has a tendency of releasing new music that isn’t as well received as the classics but, as time moves on, they all become intertwined in their favour with fans.  There was not a weak song in the 24 song set.

Frank Turner is a man and a musician that everyone should see and hear.  Yes, I still love him.

I got me a shovel
And I’m digging a ditch
And I’m going to fight for this four square feet of land like a mean old son of a bitch
I got me a future
I’m not stuck on the past
I got no new tricks, yeah I’m up on bricks but me, I’m a machine and I was built to last

I’m trying to get better because I haven’t been my best
She took a plain black marker, started writing on my chest
She drew a line across the middle of my broken heart,
And said: “Come on now, let’s fix this mess”
We could get better
Because we’re not dead yet

They threw me a whirlwind
And I spat back the sea
I took a battering but I’ve got thicker skin and the best people I know looking out for me
So I’m taking the high road
My engines running high and fine
May I always see the road rising up to meet me and my enemies defeated in the mirror behind

I’m trying to get better because I haven’t been my best
She took a plain black marker, started writing on my chest
She drew a line across the middle of my broken heart,
And said: “Come on now, let’s fix this mess”
We could get better
Because we’re not dead yet

It’s just a knot in the small of your back
You could work it out with your fingers
It’s just a tune that got stuck in your head
You could work it out with your fingers
It’s just some numbers tangled up in your sums
You could work it out with your fingers
It’s just a simple braille missive from the person you miss, a reminder you could always be
A little bit better than this

So try and get better and don’t ever accept less
Take a plain black marker and write this on your chest
Draw a line underneath all of this unhappiness
Come on now, let’s fix this mess
We could get better
Because we’re not dead yet
We could get better
Because we’re not dead yet

Get Better by Frank Turner

 

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