by Vasilis, contributing writer
This is not my first time seeing the wonderfully gifted Frank Turner live, but an artist as talented and engaging as Frank begs you to come back for more. I was lucky enough to catch him 3 times in 24 hours earlier this year at SXSW in Texas, and each show was unique and entertaining. This was my seventh time seeing him live, but it was also my girlfriend’s very first Frank Turner show. She’s not a fan of his work, as his style isn’t her cup of tea (her words, not mine… although I appreciate the British humor in that line) but she was a good sport and tagged along. The Music Hall of Williamsburg only holds about 500-600 people so it was an small room to play in, though he did schedule two shows (both sold out fairly quickly). But as a fan, it’s been fun watching Frank’s U.S. audience grow exponentially with each stateside tour.
I had never heard of the opener, Ben Marwood, but I always love checking out new acts, and seeing someone perform live first is an interesting experience as you can bypass the issue of studio recorded music and just catch someone in their raw, natural element. Despite being his first U.S. tour, Ben seemed comfortable, if not a little awkward, but commanded the stage well and told engaging stories that drew applause and laughs from the crowd. His British humor and accent fit well opening for Frank Turner, and it was clear he was appreciative of the opportunity and took advantage of it.
Supporting act Off With Their Heads were certainly an odd pick for this tour, although I had seen them in the past opening for Dropkick Murphys/Against Me! and again this year for Alkaline Trio/Bayside. Their fantastic new album Home is a solid, fast, aggressive punk record that has been making waves on some top punk music sites and their set, like their recorded music, was raw, fast, and aggressive. They tore through a 40 minute set with little talking and a lot of rocking. The only down side was a huge fight that erupted in the pit that led to a big meathead with a bloody lip getting escorted out by security, but not before trying to take down half the crowd. This prompted Frank Turner, before his set, to proclaim “Fuck fighting! We’re all friends here.”
The fight did little to deter the excitement for Frank Turner, who opened his set in style with the catchy, raucous jam “I Want To Dance” which prompted dancing, clapping, stomping, and singing in typical Frank Turner fashion. He played a 21 song set that was very heavy on his last two incredible albums, England Keep My Bones and Tape Deck Heart. He stopped only to tell his stories of heartbreak, drinking, home, and friendship, including an episode of drunk dialing a member of The Dropkick Murphys and stories of his hellish experience spent in an un-air-conditioned Brooklyn shop while writing Poetry of the Deed in the summer of 2009.
As always, Frank was engaging and on-point with his live set, which is one of the main reasons people continue to come back (like my girlfriend’s friend Alex, who saw both Brooklyn shows and has now gone to 16 total Frank Turner shows). He comes off as truly humble and appreciative of his fan-base and his audience, always remembering the people who have been there with him since the beginning and sprinkling some old classics into his set like “The Real Damage” (one of my personal favorite songs) and “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous”. However, it’s always great to see that Frank Turner fans love his new work just as much as his old stuff, which is a testament to how consistent of a songwriter he is. He began playing songs off Tape Deck Heart way back in 2011 and fans have always shown appreciation and a love for them. Songs like “Tell Tale Signs”, “Recovery”, “The Way I Tend to Be”, and “Plain Sailing Weather” received huge ovations and have become live staples in Frank’s set.
The encore brought the best surprise of all. Even though he retired the song at his Wembley Arena DVD performance (2012), Frank brought out old favorite “The Ballad of Me and My Friends” to everyone’s delight. There is nothing cooler than a sold out Frank Turner show shouting “And we’re definitely going to hell!” in defiant unison. He closed his set with fan-favorites “I Still Believe” and “Photosynthesis”, where he implored all the fans to sit down at one point before jumping up and bringing everyone together in harmony and excitement one final time, which is the true mark of a great Frank Turner show.
As always, the show was memorable and Frank remains one of my favorite live acts. Though he’s still not my girlfriend’s cup of tea, she said that he put on a fun live show and can see he’s a very gifted musician. She’s even been listening to his stuff more the past few days to try to get into him, and says she likes Tape Deck Heart, which is more than I could have asked for. The long wait for Frank’s next NY show (at Terminal 5, which holds 3000 people!) has begun. November 27 cannot come soon enough.