Frank Turner and Billy Bragg, The Roundhouse, London
Tuesday 21 August 2012
"I won’t sit down and I won’t shut up/ And most of all I will not grow up", belts out the lean 30-year-old Frank Turner on his rousing anthem "Photosynthesis", and the bolshie folkie from Winchester is the highlight of this inaugural Able2UK concert for disabled awareness.
Turner, a former punk with the now deceased Million Dead and a contemporary of Prince William at Eton, has worked tirelessly on his stagecraft, performing over a 1,000 gigs and garnering a hugely devoted fanbase and a comfortable amount of success on the back of his industry – he played Wembley Arena earlier this year. His blistering solo set is sandwiched in-between turns from the jaunty, Eighties throwbacks Mystery Jets and Friendly Fires' thunderous nu-rave. They can't really compete with this folk force of nature though.
However, before any of them comes the other highlight tonight: a silver-haired Billy Bragg, Turner's biggest influence ("I'm still getting used to playing on the same stage as Billy," admits Frank), and the activist from Barking delivers a typically belligerent set, remonstrating against Rupert Murdoch, Twitter, cynicism ("I've realised the enemy of all us is cynicism") on spiky tracks "Tomorrow's Going to be a Better Day", " Never Buy the Sun" and "I Keep Faith". However good Bragg's protest songs undoubtedly are, though, his more romantic numbers were always more potent lyrically. And, thankfully, he performs "Sexuality" ("I feel a total jerk before your naked body of work") and "New England", two of the most finely crafted ballads by a British musician in the past 30 years.
Turner, dressed in a trademark tight T-shirt and jeans, also satisfies a lot of peoples' fervent desire to see and hear something lacking in cynicism, something authentic. There's a sense of communal celebration at a Turner concert, with all of his fanatical followers singing along to every lyric, such as on "I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous" and "Peggy Sang the Blues" (with the impassioned "It doesn't matter where you come from/ It matters where you go") from his justly lauded last album, England Keep My Bones.
"We're all in this together," Turner keeps telling us before launching, with unhinged vigour into a typically earnest track such as "I Still Believe", screeching with intensity "Now who'd of thought that after all/ Something as simple as rock'n'roll would save us all."
Turner set is brief, barely seven songs, but its scorching sincerity, intelligence and proficiency leaves you a little warmer inside. No wonder he's started selling out Wembley Arena. I'm a believer.
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