As soon as FRANK TURNER (with his band THE SLEEPING SOULS) steps on stage here tonight, there is a boundless sense of love and affection between him and his adoring crowd. Nearly every word he says, sings or bellows is echoed around the O2 Academy, with a relentless sea of hands in the air. Opening with raucous new track 1933, he screams, “And I don’t know what’s going on anymore!” referencing the bewildering current political climate, which charges the atmosphere for the night and increases the sense of anticipation for his forthcoming album, Be More Kind. New tracks Blackout, Make America Great Again and the new album’s title track are already hits with his loyal following, which follow his traditional folk-punk structure, but pack more of an up-tempo punch, crammed with astute, zealous and comforting lyrics. His on stage encouragement to be an all-round decent human being – among references to the extremely important Safe Gigs For Women campaign he has publicly backed – is lauded by the crowd.
Recently, Turner stated that “the world has changed in a way that I feel demands comment”. His new lyrics take action to this, stating, “I’m just an ignorant Englishman, but I’d like to Make America Great Again […] like making racists ashamed again” and“In a world that’s decided to lose its mind, try to be more kind”. Although seemingly sweeping statements, they show Turner slightly out of his comfort zone, passionately reminding his crowd that common sense, tenderness and togetherness are the best virtues to prevail in this confusing and volatile fake news world.
One thing you cannot deny Frank Turner is his tireless enthusiasm and work ethic. He talks to the crowd about his earliest memory of the O2 Academy, playing with previous band Million Dead way back in 2003. Since then he has performed a staggering 2,000-plus shows and his exuberance seems to have only increased. Now with decades of experience at his fingertips, he’s unperturbed about delving deep into his back catalogue with indulgences such as Long Live The Queenand Photosynthesis. There’s a much-needed breather with a solo trio of acoustic songs, including the sensitive and tender Faithful Son– an intimate ode to his parents. As The Sleeping Souls emerge from their slumber, Turner confesses his immense appreciation for them and for the crowd, proceeding to rattle through fan favourites I Still Believeand Four Simple Words, which, as with earlier track Recovery, make the entire venue erupt into an intense burst of emotion and adulation.
Once again, Frank Turner shows he knows all the tricks of the trade, but also that he’s not afraid to try something new. He is a living exhibit of honesty, determination and hard work and his crowd completely adore him for it. In this confusing modern world we live in, we all need a night of pure enthusiasm, positivity and togetherness. To paraphrase Turner: “Something as simple as rock ’n’ roll, could save us all.”