Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Frank Turner

December 3rd 2016

Edinburgh Usher Hall

Three or so hours in the company of frantic Frank and his friends was,
for the most part anyway, fine fun this evening.

First up we had Esmé Patterson: a singer from across the pond, who has found herself branded with the latest lazy music genre label: Folk'n'Roll – even if this one does describe her slightly eclectic musical approach rather well.  

Perhaps this was a bit of an off-night for the lady, but I felt her voice was a touch strained at points during her set.  Which was a bit of a disappointment for a number of her songs sounded finely crafted compositions – particularly her beautiful Eleanor Rigby response: Bluebird.  And I know from listening to a few of her studio recordings that she generally has a delightful Maria Muldaur-esque lilt to her voice.

Her band were excellent though, if a striking looking bunch.  The drummer could have passed for her dad, and the bass player her grandfather – with the lead guitarist perhaps her serious-looking elder sister, tagging along to keep a eye on her sibling.  The set closer Feel Right was real tour de force, propelled along by Grandpa's right-handed bass guitar played left-handed and upside-down.

Esmé Patterson

Felix Hagen and The Family I knew absolutely nothing about beforehand and, when the first few musicians – there are seven of 'em in the family – came onstage wearing face glitter, I feared the worst.  

But these boys and girls were just great, mixing elements of the likes of The Tubes, The Cramps and Scissor Sisters, led by singer Felix with his make-up and white feather boa, camping it up as the bastard offspring of Freddie Mercury and Dr. Frank N. Furter.

The imagery would have been just so much superfluous packaging were it not for the fact the outfit have a selection of immediately danceable tunes to fall back on.  Go Back Home, My Lords and Ladies and Kiss the Misfits even had the bods in the balconies up and jigging.  Quite an achievement for a support act I felt.

The band have a number of entertaining silly vids on YouTube, but take it from me none of these come close to capturing the manic energy The Family exude live.

A couple of Family members.

Felix Hagan

And so to Frank...who was well, just Frank.  England's answer to Springsteen I have heard him described.  Although I would aver his Eton and LSE education should really disqualify him from any such title.

Even if he presently mines a not-dissimilar left-wing leaning, blue-collar worker vein to The Boss, Frank's song-writing is indubitably rooted in English folk.  

Although when he and his band rocked out as they assuredly did on the likes of I Still Believe, Long Live The Queen, The Road and Recovery, even a cynical old goat like myself found it hard not to get swept along on the wave of emotion and all-inclusiveness - something I don't recall experiencing at gigs very often since seeing Bono effortlessly working his magic back in 1983.

A number of wonderful songs Turner has in his canon I acknowledge, but unfortunately not two dozen (the number he played this evening, if one includes his tongue-in-cheek Motorhead cover).  

So, for me anyway. a certain sameyness crept in during the middle of the set, which Frank's boundless energy and bug-eyed singing (Shouty Frank, Daughter calls him) could not quite dispel.  Although, to be fair, I have to hold my hand up to unfamiliarity with the man's most recent album Positive Songs for Negative People, which contributed seven tunes to this evening's set.

However, Photosynthesis, as a set closer was superb, as was the collection of four songs performed in rapid fire succession as an an encore – the final one Four Simple Words presenting Frank with the opportunity for a bit of decidedly scary-looking crowd-surfing.

Frank Turner - Edinburgh 2016

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls - Edinburgh 2016

Frank Turner - Edinburgh 2016

Frank Turner (and Esmé Patterson)

Set list

I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
The Next Storm
I Still Believe
Losing Days
Try This at Home
Long Live the Queen
Ace of Spades
Polaroid Picture
Silent Key
The Way I Tend to Be
Glorious You
Smiling at Strangers on Trains
The Ballad of Me and My Friends
The Opening Act of Spring
Plain Sailing Weather
If Ever I Stray
The Road
Out of Breath

Get Better
Four Simple Words

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