LIVE: Frank Turner @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

By Jess McCarrick

Frank Turner is a famed name amongst the alternative music scene with a plethora of genres under his belt, his endearing charm never failing to impress behind the microphone.

He opens the night with a debut live performance of track ‘Broken Piano’, a haunting choice as the sombre lyrical tone and minimal backing seems to take the breath out of the room. We had only seconds to sit in the thick atmosphere as it came to an end before Turner and his band The Sleeping Souls kick into gear for happy-sad anthem ‘Recovery’. It’s an intimate tale of self-sabotage, turned hopeful recanting of love – it clearly hits a nerve for most, as the audience happily indulge in joyous involvement. We sing along with a determined anguish, as the tone of the guitar and the light vocal delivery give its ominous words an air of something yet to come. We’re hopefully no longer looking at a Turner who would write those words, and the reflective element of this performance is therefore a treat to behold.

After finishing the opening segment of the show, Turner begins to monologue about the importance of the album the songs had come from, ‘Tape Deck Heart’. It was the tenth anniversary of the album’s release and so the gig became a place to celebrate the record in its entirety. A smooth applause erupts from the crowd, full of fans who appreciate a live show filled to the brim with deep cuts.

‘Plain Sailing Weather’ is a blizzard of rapid and melodic guitar strums that buzz on the strings with eagerness as the light hints of drums come into the mix. The entire song continues to build until the chorus drops and each element increases with volume and ferocity. It was clear to see as Turner beamed that this is a favourite to play live as he bounces across the stage – his impressive vocal power never wavering.

The album was brought to an end with ‘The Way I Tend To Be’, the intrepid revelation of Turner’s heart met with silent admiration. Its folky backing guitar strums are played with cheery resolution, until the bridge where everything is stripped away. A spotlight lingers on Turner allowing his emotion to set in for the final lyrics.

He reminisces about leaving punk, to the dismay of those around him namely telling him that “he’s having a psychotic episode”, all but his manager Charlie who he then thanked profusely for believing in the change. His anecdote was met with laughs from all, a moment where we could all reflect on the legacy of the British act.

Turner and his band hold nothing back in final songs ‘Try This at Home’ and ‘I Still Believe’ – their power is palpable. For every tamer moment of stripped back simplicity there is an equally poignant crescendo of instrumentation. Throngs of people – friends and strangers alike – linked arms, singing and jumping around to the optimistic but grounded lyricism of Turner. It truly is moments like this where you can’t argue that there’s a better thing on earth than live music.