Frank Turner @ Southampton Guildhall, 7/12/2010

With the weather outside taking a turn for the worst, and snow sweeping in across the country putting half the population on hold, it’s good to see that people still make it out for a good gig when they see one. It’s nothing short of a miracle that half the bands have managed to make it to the Guildhall this night with icy roads taking out all transport, but made it they have and Southampton welcomes them into the cavernous hall for tonight’s show.

The crowd is pretty thinly spread and half still in their outside coats when Oxford’s own Dive Dive open up the show, and even though their lyrics come across as perhaps a little overly simplistic, their mix of heavy and angular indie rock gains a pretty fair reaction from the sparse crowd. Their new single Liar and The Point Is (a song, ironically, about playing small venues) get people to pay attention rather than drink, and especially their song they wrote about Planet of the Apes to which they promise anyone who can spot a second Sci-Fi reference in the song a free piece of merchandise from their table. Dive Dive have managed to bring a crowd together despite people obviously being more interested in getting warm from the outside, which is no easy job, so it would be interesting to see what would happen when they add more dynamics to their songs and lyrics.

On the other end of the musical scale, main support Ed Harcourt appears on stage looking very dapper and surrounded by a veritable orchestra of different instruments. It’s fair to say that from the get-go, Ed Harcourt’s music is absurdly haunting and slightly magical as he comes on stage, picks up a guitar and just starts playing without any introduction. Ed Harcourt’s songs like the instruments he uses, constantly change tone but always stay complex and moving and straight from the soul. His impressive variety of music consists of him starting with a guitar, then moving to a piano, then a piano and a guitar, to a banjo and a vocoder, to a piano, drum, guitar, vocoder AND a trombone put through a loop. As if all of this wasn’t impressive enough, Ed Harcourt manages to do everything he does with such a tinge of soul to his songs that you end up wondering exactly what it is he’s writing about when he makes songs like Heart of a Wolf where he gets the audience to howl at the moon with him. Before clearing the stage for the main act, Ed Harcourt treats the audience tonight to a Christmas song to start getting people in the spirit of the season, questionably titled Devil Came Down The Chimney, a slightly dark and twisted tale of Christmas joy. Christmas Number One material it might not be, but nevertheless it still manages to impress.

Because the lights in the Guildhall stay dimmed before Frank Turner takes to the stage, when he does so it’s completely unannounced as he and his band appear on the stage, all dressed in white shirts and suited up for the evening. “I’m Frank Turner, and I’m from Winchester. I’ve got some good news and bad news,” announces Turner to the crowd anxiously waiting to hear what he has to say. “I was talking to my doctor before the show, and he said that I’m too sick and I shouldn’t play the show.” Every member of the crowd at this point is understandably preparing themselves for disappointment. “The good news is I told him to go fuck himself!” Ecstatic cheers from every member of the crowd ensues as Frank Turner starts out his set with Eulogy, before moving on to Poetry of the Deed, the lyrics of which truly set the tone for the evening, and then on to latest single Try This At Home.

Frank Turner’s recently released 5 track EP Rock and Roll is still selling well among those already familiar with his work, but that’s not what he’s pushing on here tonight. Instead we get an eclectic mix of some of Frank Turner’s most meaningful and heartfelt of songs, perhaps best shown in the way he goes from new EP release I Still Believe, to a song from an album he wrote with a friend of his in America in 4 hours entitled The Ballad Of Steve (about a true story of a pilot that walked off a plane before take off after getting fed up with his job), to his famous Love, Ire and Song.

One of the biggest appeals of Frank Turner live, besides his obvious ability to lead a crowd in his amazing array of true-blue punk rock songs, is his ability to tell a story. And so, when he recalls an anecdote about his recurring dreams of sitting and talking with Bob Dylan who says absolutely nothing to him in his dreams, it’s like he’s talking to a crowd of people who have all been his personal friend for years. And perhaps that’s exactly how he feels. Either way, this leads him to play his song about Bob Dylan for everyone in the room as a personal thank you for putting up with his illnesses.

“I’m really sick, so I’m going to need everyone to sing as much of the next few songs as they can for me,” Turner kindly asks of the crowd before he finishes his main set with the anthemic rise to arms of Sons Of Liberty and the highly well received insight into the life of a travelling musician The Road, both of which the crowd know entirely off by heart and take Frank Turner up on his offer of singing the words as loudly and proudly as they possibly can. To round off what has already been an incredible set despite obvious setbacks of illness; Frank Turner and his band grace the stage once again for an encore of Ballad of Me and My Friends and ending in the huge sing-along of Photosynthesis, the chorus of “I won’t sit down, I won’t shut up” being reflective of the entire attitude of the evening as a whole.

 “If this were anywhere else in the country, I wouldn’t have played the show, but this is my home” Frank claimed before the end of the show, and it’s fair to say that each and every member of the crowd tonight thanked their stars that he did – because this is a show you wouldn’t have wanted to miss!

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Frank Turner – “Poetry Of The Deed”

Winchester local Frank Turner has been out making quite a name for himself in the last few years. Previously a member of the hardcore rock band Million Dead, he now writes and records his own unique blend of acoustic/country/folk/punk-rock songs which are both bitter-sweet and truly empowering at the same time. Now whilst that might seem like a lot of genres rolled into one, Frank Turner pulls all of it off amazingly well, and after a previous two albums worth of material he has now released Poetry Of The Deed, which cements his status as a unique artist along with the rest of his band.

I’ll openly admit that my buying this album has been a long time coming, but now that I own it, I truly don’t regret getting it! Poetry Of The Deed, as an album, is an eclectic mix of emotions as far as the songs and lyrics take you. The joyful, piano led opener Live Fast Die Old is both an uplifting punk-rock song about living your life to the fullest, but also doing for so long that you never stop enjoying it. The line “You’d rather burn out than fade away? Well why not both, I plan to stay” sums up the spirit of the song, which in turn is closely followed by Try This At Home, another folk-punk mix that encourages all listeners to “turn off your stereo, pick up that pen and paper, you could do much better than a half-arsed skinny English country singer”. For all the talent and charisma he has, Frank Turner doesn’t lose his sense of humor or irony throughout Poetry Of The Deed, and that just makes the songs all the more interesting. For instance, Dan’s Song is just a song about him and his friend Dan taking some beers to a park to drink, and inviting people to join them. A simple, humorous little song, but the way that it’s sung gives it more meaning than what you would otherwise realize.

The title song Poetry Of The Deed itself is one of the more rock-led songs, Tuner’s punky vocals giving power and lift to the chorus lines, and all the interestingly phrased lyrics that paint a picture of not being held back in wanting to live dreams, such as the line “let’s grab life by the throat and live it to pieces”. The Fastest Way Back Home is the closest thing on Poetry of The Deed to a love ballad, but it’s still one that rock with its piano led folksiness. Right after this, though, is Sons Of Liberty which is a total turn as a political punk song which drips not only with Irish folk balladry (especially with the violin accompaniment at the end) but also with malice and scorn for the government with the lines “Stand up sons of liberty, and fight for what you own. Stand up sons of liberty and fight, fight for your homes”.

Recent single The Road is a beautiful little country-style song about the people Frank Turner meets and the stories he can tell from being on tour and seeing the places he’s seen, which then gives way to a couple of darker-tinted songs such as Richard Divine which could easily deceive you as a less dark song if you were less attentive to the lyric content about suicide. However dark these may be, there’s Sunday Nights to lighten the mood with its slow, melodic verses.

Closing off Poetry Of The Deed is Journey Of The Magi, an almost mournful song that speaks of stories of Moses and Greek Gods that only have stories to tell because they didn’t take the easier road – a message that speaks true not only of Frank Turner himself, but for anyone who cares to listen enough to the messages thread throughout these songs, ending with the line ” So saddle your horse and shoulder your load, burst at the seams, be what you dream, and take to the road.”

There is an eclectic mix of messages and songs on Poetry Of The Deed, ranging from the uplifting and empowering to the dark and political. Frank Turner has done a fantastic job threading ideals and messages throughout these songs, and the music that he’s made to go with them is just as great. Poetry Of The Deed is definitely an ideal listen for anyone who enjoys City And Colour but needs a bit more energy to the acoustics, or anyone that enjoys punk-rock songs but feels they may need a break from all the angst! Definitely one to give a listen to, at the very least!

LISTED Film Previews – January/February ’10

Another month, and another set of Film Previews for you guys out there! Hopefully these ones will be pretty popular ones to go and see, especially since its around that time that all the Oscar Nominees are getting released. Anyway, here are some easy ways to beat boredom in the coming couple of months:

NINJA ASSASSIN (15) (Dir. James McTeigue)

Already causing quite the storm in America (mostly due to the cult Japanese superstar Rain playing the main role of super-assassin Raizo), this film is not only directed by the same guy as V For Vendetta , but has also been partly written by comic book writer/legend J. Michael Straczynski! A young ninja, born and raised to be the most deadly weapon alive, turns his back on the orphanage and clan that trained him, sparking off confrontations with fellow ninjas and the leaders of the clan. Ninja Assassin is already gathering a crowd due to its huge amount of stunts and gore, so if you’re expecting a deep, emotionally driven storyline this might not be the film for you. However, if you want plenty of kick-assery, then this could be your ultimate fantasy come true! Released 8th January.

THE ROAD (15) (Dir. John Hillcoat)

Starring a rather hairy-looking Viggo Mortensen, this film see’s his nameless character and his son walking for months and trying to survive by any means possible in a post-apocalyptic world, ravaged by an unexplained cataclysm, in search of any kind of civilisation. Whilst this may sound like a very dull basis for a film now (thanks, in part, to 2012…), this Cormac McCarthy adaptation is setting out to be as dark as possible, and explore the depths that the human race will go to in order to survive. Also, there could possibly be an Oscar-Nomination in Viggo’s performance… Released 8th January.

THE LOVELY BONES (12A) (Dir. Peter Jackson)

Winning combination, here – award-winning director Peter Jackson doing an adaptation of one of the most popular books of recent years (that ISN’T Twilight, that is!), and ending up with a film that (from the trailer) looks to be both emotionally moving and visually stunning as well. The story itself (for those that don’t know) centres around a young girl, Susie Salmon, who has been murdered and watches over both her family and her murderer from Heaven, whilst choosing between her wanting vengeance or wanting her family to move on and heal themselves. Between the visuals, direction and script, this could easily clean up at the Oscars, so make sure you get to see it. And bring the tissues… Released 29th January.

INVICTUS (12A) (Dir. Clint Eastwood)

This is Clint Eastwood’s 5th film in as many years, thus making many other directors look terribly unproductive in comparison! After the success of Gran Torino last year, Invictus is Clint Eastwood taking a look at life for Nelson Mandella (Morgan Freeman) after the fall of apartheid in South Africa during his first term as president, when he campaigned for South Africa to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in an attempt to unite his countrymen. Also starring Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, Invictus looks like it might well be another contender for some Oscar wins, so it will be tight between those that get nominated! Released 5th February.

As Publish in Listed Issue 24 and on www.listedmagazine.com