“If you’ve ever been to one of my gigs before, you’ll know that I have two rules” Frank states towards the beginning of his second consecutive sold out show at Rock City, sounding like Tyler Durden addressing the members of Fight Club. ‘The first rule is don’t be a dick”. A cheer rises from the impressively varied audience, louder from those covered in someone else’s beer or with their view spoilt by the back of someone inconsiderately tall’s head. “The second is, if you know the words, you have to sing along!”. It goes without saying really. From the very first line the audience are chanting the words straight back to Frank, every song accompanied by a strong chorus of loyal fans – students and the silver-haired alike battling for precious space in Nottingham’s famous Rock City. The second rule was well and truly followed by everyone, at least.
The atmosphere was surprisingly charged for a Monday night, the anticipation heightened by two support acts. Further excitement and homepride stemmed from Frank’s constant reminding that Rock City is his favourite venue in the country, and his follow up reassurance that, no, he doesn’t say that at every gig. It was evident, Frank bordering on gushing, that having two sold out nights at Rock City really meant the world to him. It made the night feel significant rather than just a drop in his vast ocean of performances, despite it likely being a replica of the night before. And Rock City did him proud, putting on a spectacular show of pulsing and laser beam of lights to perfectly compliment the pace of the songs.
There is a reason his fans call themselves the Frank Turner army – they stand to attention in their Turner merchandise, a quick consensus in the toilet queue revealing this is the third or fourth time many have been. When he tells everyone to sit on the grimy, alcohol-glazed floor, they do it, never mind the fact it’s wholly dirty and disgusting. It’s just impossible to deny Frank’s extensive experience-strengthened stage presence. It is evident that the audience is at the heart of his shows from the complete attentiveness he shows towards everyone; not once does he take his eyes off of the crowd or slip into concentrating solely on his music. He spends a lot of the time as close as possible to the audience by standing on the extremity of the stage, and at one point was literally on top of them crowd-surfing. Impressive, as understandably most artists would be too afraid to be at the mercy of a drunk crowd like so. Notably, his audience interaction appeared genuine, unlike many artists’ staged ‘banter’ to fulfill the crowd-interaction quota in between songs. He even performed a request from a crowd member despite it being a slower song from the deluxe edition of Tape Deck Heart, and therefore was unknown to the majority of the crowd. But arguably most laudable was the length of his set. Despite doing solo shows day after day for ten years, the counter on his website showing it was his 1786th gig, Frank still completed a two hour set. This dedication is rarely seen – even amongst the newest, highest paid and most eager bands, and really shows Frank’s determination to show the audience a great time, as well as attempt to scratch the surface of his decade’s worth of material.
Obviously there wasn’t time to cover a lot of his extensive discography, so the setlist had been carefully designed to please everyone. The show started with a series of fast-paced, punchy rock songs for fans who may have followed him from his previous position as lead vocals in hard-core rock band Million Dead. This warmed the crowd up, accelerating from nought to sixty straight away and phasing effortlessly across the past decade of music, brand-new conceptions followed by ‘vintage Frank’. Also interspersed at equal intervals through the set were many tunes from Tape Deck Heart, arguably the songs that provoked the best, most delighted, response from the audience.
The encore, however, was perfectly crafted to leave the audience the happiest; starting off slow, picking up the pace, then finishing on a classic Turner high. The slow song chosen on his return was ‘Song For Josh’. Frank told us he wanted to explain the song before he sang, a look of crushed pain washing over his face as he explained that it was dedicated to a valued friend, Josh Burdette, who unexpectedly took his own life. The raw emotion with which he sang left the audience completely speechless and silent, all attention on the heartfelt lyrics and performance. There was a strong, touching sense of the grief still being as awful as it was the day Josh died. The nostalgic, lyric-heavy ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ was up next, an increase in pace and firm fan favourite judging by the whole room knowing every word. Finally, the set ended on ‘Four Simple Words’, an ode to live performances and true, unprocessed artists. Beginning with a deceivingly soft acoustic introduction the song switches, spectacularly, into a thrashing, shout-along dance tune. Perfect for going out in a frenzy of drums, guitars, shouts and cheers. An energetic finish to an intimate-feeling, highly polished and wholly enjoyable show.