With a background in hardcore punk music, it’s rather surprising that Frank Turner’s (photo by Vikki McIntyre) solo career consists of acoustic songs, but these aren’t sit-down acoustic folk ballads; they’re stand up and sing-along acoustic belters. As his tall frame takes the stage as though climbing a victory podium, he’s flanked by a military snare-loving drum kit, embossing bass and supportive electric guitar players, who come and go at various parts of his set. Frank’s songs burst with life-affirming chants, witty rhyming couplets, and wry observations, aimed at the struggling artist that lounges in the heart of Britain’s pint drinking public. Frank is also a card-carrying political libertarian, and his songs resound with anti-Thatcher, anti-9-til-5 political themes.
His words ring with such personal truth that it isn’t hard to imagine that the majority of his predominantly male audience are also musicians and artists fighting to keep their heads above water in the entertainment business, and can sympathise with every pained word as Frank displays his bruises as proudly as war wounds.
Frank is the embodiment of the ‘try, try and try again’ attitude. Between songs he reminds the audience of his first Edinburgh gig at an empty Whistle Binkies (cheekily adding “I’m not having a go, although now that I mention it, where the hell were you all?”). His career as a failed punk screamer, and his spoken-from-the-heart lyrics, including lines about texting strangers to try to get an audience for his gigs, indicate that he really has fought an uphill battle to get to the point he is at today, but is glad to have taken the journey.
However, not all his songs reflect his career trajectory; songs like ‘Long Live The Queen’ and ‘Father's Day’ retread the oft-walked paths of family and personal relationships. While very few of his songs are “love songs” of the clichéd variety, Frank is not above picking the guitar strings to tug on the heart strings.
Its is only when HMV Picturehouse staff make it clear Frank isn’t allowed back out, by turning up the Tannoy music and getting bouncers to usher out the crowd, that the audience finally gives up their cheering and leave the venue. Nevertheless, a lucky few are treated to a few more songs later that evening at the Vat and Fiddle next door.