Frank Turner at the O2, London

We’ll sing like the barricades are down, and we’ll dance like no one’s around
(Four Simple Words ~ Frank Turner, 2013)

It’s about time I write about the last Frank Turner show I’ve been to three days ago. Especially as I’m seriously considering going I’ve decided to go to another one of his shows in five (yes, seriously!) days again. I’m such a crazy fangirl, it seems. But I just can’t help it. Nor do I want to ;-)

Frank Turner headlining the biggest indoor venue in the UK – the O2 Arena in London – was reason enough for me to spend a few days in London this past week and to want to be a part of this special moment. Special in the way that when Frank Turner started his career a few years ago, he was playing in small clubs and pubs and just tiny, tiny locations. And now he’s got around 20.000 people willing to come to this huge space to listen to his music and to dance and to sing and to have a good time. And like he said that night, if there won’t be that many people willing to come to his shows next year, he’ll be back to playing smaller venues again and that’s just as well. But for now it was the O2 arena. Or the “millenium dome” as Jay (Beans On Toast) used to call it.

I, for one, had a great time during the show (and I also enjoyed the supporting acts, Beans on Toast and Flogging Molly), but I admit that I’m glad that Frank Turner isn’t such big shot in Germany yet and thus he’s playing much smaller venues in Germany again. As much as I enjoy the comfort of the big arenas (allocated seats and thus no standing around for hours before the main act enters the stage), I think I appreciate the intimate atmosphere of the smaller venues so much more.
My seat was at the back of the arena and thus far away from the stage, but that didn’t bother me all that much. I don’t have to be close to the stage to see every tiny thing going on on stage or to snap tons of photos. I had a great view of the complete stage from back there, there were screens to see close up of the stage and the sound itself was excellent. Thumbs up for the O2 arena for that.

The thing that’s always bothering me a bit when I have a seat anywhere on the tiers, is that I don’t dare to stand up and dance and sing and just “go wild” as I would down in the (dark) standing room. Especially when the people around and behind you stay seated. I’m always afraid I’m going to spoil their concert experience by blocking the view. And to be honest, I’m also always afraid that they think I’m some kind of spazzing weirdo ;-) So I spent most of first half of the show seated, still singing and moving, but not like I wanted to. It changed after a while but still, it felt weird to NOT rock out to all the songs from the start.
On the other side of my aisle were a group of young men who were going quite crazy after a while. Too wild for my taste and also to the annoyance of the security guy in our block. I’m still surprised he didn’t call for backup, because those male, kind of drunk fans were nuts. At some point I was worried that one of them would either shower me in beer and/or fall down the stairs and break his neck. So, that ruined the last two songs for me for a bit and that’s another reason why I actually prefer standing room venues. Of course you can also have idiots close by during these show, but it’s so much easier to just avoid them by moving away from them.

Frank Turner once again was the wonderful, nice, funny, down-to-earth guy, I have experienced him to be during the concerts (and afterwards) last year. This was the fourth of the big arena shows and I think he was still a bit overwhelmed by how this all turned out. Or like he said at one point: “This is fucking mental.” LOL. He definitely appreciated getting to this point in his career (who wouldn’t?!?) but also acknowledged that so many people helped him on the way to this success, friends, family and such. A lot of them were in the audience that evening and he seemed really happy about that. His mum obviously was there as well, but he didn’t “drag” her onto stage this time *g* But he mentioned her and apologized to her, before he sang “Glory Halleluljah”, his song about there not being a God, which I can absolutely understand might be a song she’s not too happy about.
All in all it was so much fun to see him have just as much fun on stage as we all have in the audience. Or at least as much fun as I had. The crowd down in front of the stage was awesome as well. They were singing and clapping and dancing and doing all the things he asked them to *g* There also seemed to be less people constantly taking photos/videos with their phones or cameras. That’s one of my pet peeves at concerts these days, that so many people spend 75% of the time watching the stage through a tiny screen on their phones. And thus blocking the view of the people behind them. It’s not a big deal when you’ve got a seat, but it sometimes really annoys me whan I’m in the standing room.

But, back to Frank being one of the nicest people on any stage I’ve ever experienced. He had only two rules for the night. “Be nice to each other!” and “If you know the words to a song, you have to sing along.” Allright, I could do that. At one point late into the show he went stage-diving into the crowd, which surprised me a bit. I don’t know why, because he’s a punk at heart, so stage-diving probably is a natural instinct to him *g*, but I just haven’t seen him do it before. Because I’ve only seen him in smaller clubs, I guess. Plus, he had a broken back last year, when I went to see him on stage. Anyway, after he got back up on stage and the song ended he said something like: “I hope everyone is allright down there. I’m sorry for jumping on your heads like that. But I was just seized by the moment, you know?” Awwww! He’s such a sweetheart. And yes, I know that’s probably something very un-rock’n’roll-like to call him. But still…. I loved it.

I also really liked his setlist, even though of course I missed some of my favourites and I’m still not a fan of “Broken Piano” which Frank himselfs loves to pieces. Like I already said, the sound was aweseome, one of the best I ever experienced in big venues like this. The Sleeping Souls are an amazing band and Frank himself just knows how to rock a venue. Any venue.
Just before the show started an old shanty “Haul in the bowline” came over the speakers and it sort of really helped to build up the tension. For me at least. Frank and the band came on stage and started the night with “Photosynthesis”, which was totally unexpected. I haven’t checked the setlists from the other arena shows before. Maybe I should have. I love the song and I always thought it would be a great song to start the night, if just because of the “I play and you sing – the perfect way for the evening to beginn” line in it. In fact, at the two shows I saw last year I was surprised that this song was one of the last ones they played. Maybe they used it at the start for the arena shows to get the “health and safety problem” of people sitting down and jumping up out of the way right at the beginning *g*

Setlist (I admit I copied that one from here)

Photosynthesis
Plain Sailing Weather
Peggy Sang the Blues
Losing Days

The next one was “Try This at Home” and it was the first one where I just couldn’t keep seated and jumped up to sing and dance along. Followed by “Glory Hallelujah”, during which I always can catch my breath and take a few photos :-).

Reasons Not to Be an Idiot
The Way I Tend to Be

After that Frank with just his guitar played a wonderful, slower version of “I Am Disappeared”. Brilliantly done, in my opinion. For “Father’s Day” and I think also for the following “To Take You Home”, base guitar player Tarrant brought out a double bass or a “closet with some strings to it” as Frank called it, while Matt switched from the keys to a mandoline. Sounded really amazing. The classic “Wessex Boy” was next and I think I finally jumped up and stayed standing / dancing from the next song on

Polaroid Picture
The Road
If Ever I Stray
Eulogy
I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
One Foot Before the Other
Long Live the Queen

To hear 20.000 people sing the last verses (“I was working on some words, when Sarah called me up, she said that Lex had gone to sleep and wasn’t waking up”) along with Frank, almost brought tears to my eyes, but that’s probably also because it’s just such a sad song. A great song, but also such a sad one.

Recovery
Broken Piano

Encore:
The Ballad of Me and My Friends
I Still Believe
Four Simple Words

At the big Wembley Arena show 2012 (concert DVD) he said about “Ballad of Me and My Friends”, that this would probably be the last time he’d play the song. But he still played it at the shows I saw in 2013, in a beautiful piano version. At the o2 Arena show he introduced it with “At the Wembley show, I said, I wouldn’t play it anymore. But it turns out: that’s bollocks. You guys want to hear it. And I want to play it. So, let’s just forget about what I said back then…” ;-)
I absolutely loved that he choose these three songs as encore, because to me they are such Frank Turner classics, even though the last one is from the 2013 album. But it’s so very much “him” if that makes any sense. These three songs are the best examples of what he’s all about. I can’t really say it any better, sorry. Sometimes words fail me. That’s why I’m not a poet. Or a songwriter. Or any writer at all, besides this dabbling here on my blog :-).

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