Review: Frank Turner at the O2 Guildhall, Southampton

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Frank Turner delivered an extremely memorable night filled with sad tunes, happy tunes, and historical tunes.

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Not many artists could entertain 1000 people for almost an entire three hours – but Frank Turner is one of the few. Brightening an otherwise dull, rainy Monday night, Frank put on a show to remember at Southampton’s Guildhall, with the unique set-list which cleverly separated the night into two clear sections.

Firstly, he performed songs from his newest album No Man’s Land, solo, delivering extremely interesting backstories to each individual song. Entering the stage rather nonchalantly (and extremely punctually), Frank opened with ‘Jinny Bingham’s Ghost’, a perfect starter to rally up the crowd’s excitement. Despite the Guildhall being entirely seated for this night (my 5-foot self being incredibly grateful for this as I actually could see the stage the entire way through), the crowd were not shying away from displaying their excitement and affection, demonstrated in their respectful, quiet manners during songs and some intense uproar in cheers and claps between songs. The historical backstories to each song actually became a key part of the set, where Frank maintained complete control over the entire audience as we all sat eagerly awaiting what historical song would be performed next. A personal favourite explanation of mine was ‘Rescue Annie’, as the dark history to the song simply contributes to its addictively lovely melodies. Alongside the incredible tunes played in this solo set, I also greatly appreciated the stage set-up with its simplistic yet effective lighting, which provided the prettiest, perfect backdrop to Frank.

After a short interval, Frank returned to the stage with his band The Sleeping Souls, whom were all welcomed extremely warmly by the crowd as they returned, again, punctually. Although it may not seem a big deal to some, punctuality at a gig is something which is particularly memorable to me, after some less than nice times as a teen waiting and waiting for bands to enter the stage. The second half maintained a similar structure to the first, with historical backstories to each song but rather than focussing on historical females over 100s of years, the songs performed with The Sleeping Souls delved into Frank’s personal history and song-writing grwoth. Introducing the second half as a “deep dive into the old shit” and as “stories of things I’ve learned on 21 years of tours”, I knew we were in for a treat. Opening with ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’, which seemed a suitable opener with The Sleeping Souls, the crowd really started getting into it. Despite the first half being incredible to witness with all the new songs and the interesting stories, it was clear that the crowd were much more excited in the second half, probably due to the older stuff played which happens to be much more lively in general.

Many of the songs performed in the second half were based on “unhappy love” as this, according to Frank, is his “special move”, like ‘Isabel’ and ‘Tell Tale Signs’. This seemed to satisfy many fans in the crowd as every single song was greeted with incredible cheers of support and encouragement, making the general atmosphere of the Guildhall a wonderful one to experience. I’ve attended my fair share of somewhat disappointing performances at the Guildhall due to its sometimes disheartening acoustics, however Frank’s sound permeated throughout the otherwise silent room which resulted in a clear, crisp sound, adding further greatness to his performance.

It’s impossible to detail aspects of every song due to the sheer amount that Frank played, however some memorable moments include the mandarins operated in certain songs (which made for some gorgeous, unique accompaniments to the vocals) and some more humourous comments from Frank which were well-received with much laughter from the crowd. I paticularly liked the introduction for ‘Be More Kind’, as he described how he wrote it in 2016 (when the world was going rapidly downhill) and was rushing to release it before everything got better… but then it didn’t. As Frank described, “good for my career, terrible for the world!”. My absolute favourite performance of the night was definitely ‘I Am Disappeared’, where The Sleeping Souls provided gorgeous harmonies to Frank’s vocals and the silent, respectful crowd perfectly complemented the short silences between lyrics.

As the show came to a close, Frank made sure to satisfy his older fans as he invited everyone to stand up and come forward to the front, which was met with an excitable energy from many in the seats near the front who made their way towards the stage to rock out one last time. This really summed up the wonderful atmosphere experienced throughout the night, and something which makes Frank’s shows just that little bit more special.

Frank Turner is definitely someone to see live if you ever get the chance, so be sure to stay in the loop with any future shows here

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Live Editor 2019/20. English student who loves writing about gigs.

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