Frank Turner – London O2 Arena, February 12th.
Frank Turner is no stranger to big occasions. He played to a global audience of millions at the opening ceremony of London 2012. He’s performed at (and filled) Wembley Arena in the past, so, with recent album ‘Tape Deck Heart’ a critical and commercial success, he fancies a shot at the biggest room in all of London town, the O2 Arena, or Millennium Dome as it once was and he spikily refers to it.
The evening begins with one-man-and-his-guitar banter merchant, Beans On Toast. Sadly, Sdue to a shocking fiasco involving a bar with no beer and an interminable wait to find about said shortage, we only see his final song. I can confirm however that the banter is witty, he is a man and he has a guitar.
Next up are Irish/American folk-punk troop Flogging Molly. They have the beer and whiskey fuelled tunes to lively up the crowd nicely, but it’s difficult to see beyond the obvious Pogues comparisons, particularly when they do so little to suggest that they’re too much more than pale imitators.
And so to Frank. Backed by his excellent band The Sleeping Souls, he flies through a tight, bouncy and alliterative opening trio of ‘Photosynthesis’, ‘Plain Sailing Weather’ and ‘Peggy Sang The Blues’. Things really get going with a rousing rendition of ‘Glory, Hallelujah’, an ivory-tinkling stomp, the chorus of which becomes a huge sing-and-clap-along. Everyone’s into it, apart from a couple to my right who clearly believe that there IS a God and will not be clapping their hands together under any circumstances.
There’s no let-up in pace as Frank knocks out his best and best known, ‘If I Ever Stray’, ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ and recent single ‘Recovery’ receiving particularly rapturous reactions. ‘Broken Piano’ is a strangely downbeat way to close the main set, but encores ‘The Ballad Of Me and My Friends’, the obligatory ‘I Still Believe’ and ‘Four Simple Words’ send the crowd home happy.
While one can’t deny that Turner writes good enough songs, sells enough records and plays enough shows to warrant playing to big crowds, with the upper tier of seating in the enormo-dome closed off, one can’t help but think that maybe he’s over-reached himself a bit. While he and his band play brilliantly, they seem dwarfed by the sheer scale of the hall and some of the best bits of the songs, the nuance, intelligence and soul seems to evaporate into the rafters.