“This is a protest song!” are the first words spoken from the stage at Frank Turner’s homecoming gig at Southampton Guildhall; not by Frank himself, but by The Homeless Gospel Choir, somewhat surprisingly just one guy and his guitar.
Derek Zanetti, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a clear choice of support act for Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. For anyone that has heard Frank’s latest album, Be More Kind, the current political climate is on his mind. Shooting to No 3 in the UK album charts, it’s clear music fans are in agreement.
The Homeless Gospel Choir puts on a great show – starting his second song again with the words “This is a protest song!” Derek’s punk rock vibe is not dissimilar to Blink 182, modernised with original comedic value thrown in. Songs, including Depression and Armageddon refer largely to political issues, or issues of adolescence, while his humour shines through.
While THGC was still on stage, to show unity among musicians and music, Arkells join him on stage to perform his song Normal – an infectious track with everyone singing along. This fantastic collaborative arrangement got everyone dancing, and Arkells’ presence on stage created an energy in the room, setting the mood for a classic Frank gig.
Arkells, hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, have an electric frontman, Max Kerman, who describes their album Morning Report as being about him and the characters in his life; friends, family and his girlfriend. He says in an interview, “a lot of times, they’re songs about what happened the night before. So that’s why it’s called Morning Report: you text your friend the next day and it’s like, ‘Give me the morning report’” Strong Island interviewed Max a few weeks ago, and he describes Frank’s audiences to be “open-minded and there to have a good time” – this rings true already.
With quirky confidence, Max takes up the whole stage; their new single, People’s Champ, is a clear hit, and as Max describes, a proper sing-along. He encourages the crowd with; “What day is it? Tuesday? Well, it feels like it! C’mon, let’s dance like it’s Friday night!”
Everyone feeds off his energy, and the highlight was when a member of the crowd was picked to play along with the band on stage.
Arkells definitely got the party started, and the crowd eagerly anticipated Frank and his band; and our man himself took to the stage, bringing with him his cool and confident manner.
It’s clear to anyone that Frank adores performing. Southampton is his homecoming gig, with his family watching on, Frank puts on an unforgettable show.
Opening with his single 1933, earlier’s “This is a protest song!” rings on; Frank’s message of disappointment with America’s latest president. Frank tells the audience his one request is, “don’t be an arsehole”, before performing Rejoice, Recovery, Make America Great Again and The Way I Tend to Be.
Frank chats to the audience between songs, making sure the audience are aware of the causes he supports. These include Safe Gigs for Women; creating a safer environment for women at gigs through education, and Stay Up Late; a grassroots charity promoting the right for people with learning disabilities to have a choice about how they live their lives.
On this theme, he continues with Be More Kind – the title track of his new album and my personal favourite from his new stuff.
I am Disappeared is up next, and one of his songs that I will never get bored of; it reminds me of travelling when I was younger and is full of memories of rickety buses and endless beaches. The sad and dreamlike lyrics are poetry, coupled with a melody you could inhale, makes for a timeless Frank classic. I adore hearing it live; if you are curious about how it sounds, the live version is on Spotify. Frank sings each song with such passion, you would never know this is gig number 2,163.
During Little Changes, the crowd enjoyably sing along with the ‘oh-oh-oh’s then he says with a grin before the next; “Apologies to my mother” before following with Love and Ire Song.
Of course, he couldn’t do a homecoming gig without Wessex Boy – another classic and not usually on the setlist, and the crowd are delighted to hear it.
The Sleeping Souls leave the stage for Frank to sing some acoustic tracks, before picking up the pace again with Photosynthesis.
Frank plays two of his most popular songs last; I Still Believe and I Want to Dance – whereby his disobeys the ‘No Crowd Surfing’ rule and jumps into the crowd, still singing while he passes over the happy throng of fans.
Seeing Frank live is something of an addiction – the minute it’s all over, I immediately want to see it all over again. Luckily, Frank does get about a bit; he’s about to start the US leg of his tour, and I am sure he will be back in the UK very soon.