Early on in tonight’s show, Frank Turner stops and takes a moment to consider the obstacles that the universe has thrown in our collective path in getting to this, his first headline show at London’s mammoth 02 Arena. He cites the current phenomenal storms lashing and flooding the UK. He points to the city’s tube strike, which was called off only just in time for fans to get to the gig unimpeded by transport chaos. Lastly, he reels with amazement that everyone has actually ventured to a venue that is south of the river.
Geographical divide jokes aside, both he and his fans have every right to feel slightly in awe of the occasion. Tonight is indelible evidence of the vast leap in venue sizes that Frank Turner and his three Sleeping Souls have made in a relatively few, if extremely gig-packed, years. I’ve seen Turner play a number of times – including at free gigs in tiny pubs and, most recently, a charity busk on the streets of King’s Cross.
Constant touring and consistently interesting records have garnered the high level of support that allows Turner to fill the arena tonight, with fans ready to sing along to all those memorable catchphrases in his songs about friends, drinking, heartbreak and travel.
Several numbers from Tape Deck Heart, his latest album, are given an airing, including Plain Sailing Weather, Polaroid Picture and Recovery. Meanwhile, older tracks such as Reasons Not To Be An Idiot, Photosynthesis and The Road stand out as crowd favourites.
The now familiar plain white shirt attire of the band has the slight feel of a ‘school uniform at the end of the day’ look, but one assumes it’s just another way of the band diverting attention back to the music and taking some of the ‘rock star/personality cult’ out of the visual aspect of a group on stage.
The encore kicks off with a solo performance of The Ballad Of Me And My Friends. This is classic Turner sing along territory, with the epic line “We’re definitely going to hell, but we’ll have all the best stories to tell”, which was duly screamed with heartfelt anguish by fans all around me.
Towards the end of the show, Turner notes that much of tonight’s material wasn’t written to be played in huge arenas, but in the small pub venues in which he started out and he once more asserts his gratefulness for the magnitude of the night. The success of the evening makes it seem unlikely this artist is going to need to downscale from arenas on future tours. However, Turner’s lingering grass roots grasp of what live music is all about, hints that we may still see him turn up with this guitar for the odd pub gig – even if, as tonight’s ticket sales prove, he doesn’t have to. Perhaps this makes him more of an awakened soul, than a sleeping one…
Review by Imelda Michalczyk on 12 February 2014, London. Please check out Imelda’s own website here Rebeladelica