Gig Review: Frank Turner

It’s not every day you can say you’ve ticked an item off your bucket list. Last night, however, I was treated to three minutes of lyrical magic which I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Watching the lone figure stand, dappled lighting pinwheeling through air heavy with an electric fervour, two thousand people were caught in a moment and caught on every word which slammed forth into the crowd.

Frank Turner hails from the south of England and wasn’t afraid to let this Scottish crowd know. Educated at Eton on a music scholarship, he was set apart as the underdog and has used his distinctive folk-rock style of music ever since as a means of bringing people from all walks of life together. I’ve loved his music for more years than I’d care to remember, and nothing was going to stop me from making it to Dunfermline’s Alhambra Theatre on a warm September night to see him live. Untitled, and correspondingly unpretentious, this tour bridged the sometimes-awkward gap between his fifth and (unreleased) sixth album and was, quite simply, a damn good party.

Arriving half an hour after doors opened we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of queue, helpful security staff and the understated opulence of the venue. Ordinarily a traditional theatre, it had been transformed by the removal of the stall seating into a concert venue, yet still maintained an air of class which lifted the feel of the evening. We were rebel kids partying in a palace for the night, with Frank daring us to sing just a little bit louder with every song.

The less said about the support act, a weird and wonderful duo from the states called Koo Koo Kanga Roo, the better. The only comparison we could come up with was singing-kettle-on-crack, and although entertaining it was clear that everyone was here for the main event.

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Frank started his set with a trio pacy hits: Try This at Home, If Ever I Stray & Losing Days. Spanning from 2009 to 2013 these three songs set the tone of the evening as Frank hopped from album to album, with the audience hanging off each word and anticipating every step of the way. On faster numbers his band, The Seeping Souls, followed his lead and created a cacophony of sound which rolled and roiled around the theatre until the crowd had graduated from the casual head-bop to full on dancing without consciously deciding so. And then as quickly as we’d started the lights dimmed to leave Frank by himself, strumming introspectively and quietly introducing ballads and new, haunting, songs which were only half-caught before they floated off into the rafters. Most intriguing of these was called Silent Key, a song built around the tale of an astronaut who lost her life on the Challenger mission. Other new offerings included Love 40 Down & Josephine, which only served to heighten my excitement at the promise of a new album next year.

The Sleeping Souls rejoined the party for the last third of the set and smashed out hit after hit. These are kind of songs which you’re sure you’ve heard somewhere before, and which simply won’t leave your head after a couple of listens. My personal favourites, I am Disappeared & I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous made an appearance towards the end and held me spellbound. Therein lies the magic of live music; that having heard both of them hundreds of times over they could still sound new and true and different under these circumstances.

Encore, violent applause, lights up. All that was left was to stumble out into the night, feeling a smidgen more alive than before. Despite the four buses, and two hours, it took to finally return home to St Andrews I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

 

 

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