Monday, December 13, 2010


© Frank Turner's Facebook

13 December

“This is the single biggest headline show I’ve ever done!” gasps Frank Turner, smiling from ear to ear. “The first solo show I did, there were four people. There’s 5000 of you… Which makes me think I’ve done something constructive with the last four years.”

“This is the last day of the tour, which is a shame, ‘cos I fucking love being on tour,” he says... Tonight’s a big night and Brixton Academy feels festive. It's an end of year party of sorts, celebrating four years of non-stop touring, recording and partying around the world. Since Million Dead split up in 2005, Turner’s released three studio albums and a never-ending barrage of EPs, split albums and compilations.

The first band tonight Dive Dive’s been going since 2000. Then in 2006, the whole band except frontman Jamie Stuart recorded as Frank Turner’s band on his first EP Campfire Punkrock (recorded at Dive Dive’s studio in Oxford). In 2007, Dive Dive minus Stuart became Turner’s official touring band. Still, Dive Dive kept things going with new album Potential.

Tonight, Dive Dive sound and look every bit the opening act. Their sound’s hard to place. It’s modern rock – something Pete Wentz might sign. But despite the band’s well-articulated instrumentals, the vocal melodies and lyrics aren’t as well put together. Stuart’s voice comes off trebly and Brian Molko-ish, which doesn’t sit well with Dive Dive’s up-tempo, pop-punk riffs (and drummer Nigel Powell’s sweet backups).

Up next, layering live recordings like a voodoo lasagna, bluesy London singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt’s a million miles a way. At one point, he squeezes floor tom, trombone, banjo and shakers through a ‘50s, Good Night, and Good Luck microphone and wails over it with electric guitar and throaty headbutt vocals. And when his fingers dance up and down his keyboard on “Heart of a Wolf,” you know: this guy’s for real, a musical prodigy.

Around 9:20pm, Turner and his band stride on with purpose in matching white shirts. “My name’s Frank Turner, I’m from Winchester.” And off they go. Turner takes a quick break, just long enough to squeeze out, “Fuckin ‘ell! If everyone sings along it convinces my mum I’ve got a real job.” And then he’s off again.

“This is a song about listening to Black Flag and Minor Threat growing up. It’s a song about throwing bricks at police officers when you’re younger and wondering if it was a good idea when you’re older,” says Turner, before “Love Ire & Song.”

Tonight, backed up by his band, the main attraction is Frank Turner and his acoustic guitar. And despite his punk-rock roots, really, the guy just loves a good sing along. “I believe in guitar, bass, drums, piano and poetry. I believe in Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. I believe in The Clash, Billy Bragg and the redemptive quality of rock ‘n roll,” says Turner, introducing new single “I Believe.” And that sums him up perfectly. His songs are stories. Poems. Pages torn from a life well spent.

Showing off how much he lives and breathes this stuff, Turner introduces another new song, “The Next Round.” “The first time I went to New Orleans I went with my friend Jon Snodgrass. We got way too fucked up. I’m not gonna say what happened, but when I woke up the next day I pretty much wrote this song right then and there.”

Near the end, Powell gets the crowd clapping in time from the wings then just sits back in front of the speakers, staring out in awe and disbelief at what he’s created. Kind of like how Frank Turner stares at Brixton Academy all night – like it’s Christmas morning and he’s just got everything he’s ever wanted. Turner ends with an encore that includes Stuart and a now shaved Ed Harcourt. And the bouncers are still watering wilted teenage girls as the Academy empties...

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