Frank Turner, Wembley Arena
Frank Turner is a former hardcore Punkster who fronted band Million Dead in the early noughties. But his much gentler, quintessentially English folk-influenced solo material has earned him enough fans to sell-out a 12,000-capacity Wembley Arena.
It is the biggest gig of his career. Watching him bring his mum out on stage, dance around enthusiastically while wearing a waistcoat and behave like a genuinely nice guy (albeit one who uses a lot of profanity), it’s clear to see why, aside from his obvious musical talent, his fans have travelled far and wide to get here. He’s a sweetheart who has managed to amass a ginormous fanbase while remaining just shy of the radar. But he’s not exactly rock ‘n’ roll.
When introducing his autobiographical “Wessex Boy” (about getting pissed with his mates in Winchester) he screamed out to the Wembley crowd (or rather, politely and clearly enunciated): “I think it would be just fucking super if you could all sing along.” The rollicking, toe-tapper of a track certainly got things going. The crowd formed a mass of arm-wavers directly in front of the stage stretching for over a hundred metres like a heaving body of wriggling maggots. Turner conducted them beautifully throughout the gig and the Arena pulsed with unified stomping.
Supported by his band, The Sleeping Souls, the night’s performance was a medley of his greatest hits, plus material from his latest album, England Keep My Bones. There were a number of special guests. Introducing “A big musical influence...my mum!” his rather surprised mother, who hadn’t known he’d spring this on her, wandered out and joined him on “Dan’s Song” playing the harmonica. Billy Bragg, who had played a support set earlier in the evening, tipped up onstage again to duet with Turner on a brilliant cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing”.
Tracks like “Reasons not to be an idiot” and “Ballad of Me and My Friends” show that it is Turner’s honest, universal truth-telling that has got him here. A couple of big, macho-looking men in the row nearest me were singing along, swaying with their eyes closed. Turner opened his 90-minute set with the “Eulogy” which contains the lyric “Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury”. But blasting out a cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” to a bellowing audience who couldn’t have been more appreciative, Turner’s nice guy routine seems to suggest that he can.
Try this at home
If ever I stray
Reasons not to be an idiot
Peggy sang the blues
I am disappeared
Love ire & song
The real damage
Long live the queen
I knew prufrock before he got famous
Sons of liberty
Four simple words (new song)
I still believe
Somebody to love
The times they are a changing
Ballad of me and my friends
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