Frank Turner – Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, 25/09/2014

Frank Turner is well renowned for his exhaustive touring schedule, and he’s returned with another tour taking in towns and cities that he doesn’t visit as frequently, which has led me to pay a visit to Dunfermline on a cold Thursday evening. The location was the Alhambra, which is a cracking venue where I’ve seen Morrissey and a couple of Biffy Clyro gigs before, so I was looking forward to seeing what Frank could do in this environment.

After a couple of pints at local pub PJ Molloys, we headed to the venue and caught the last 5 minutes of support act Koo Koo Kanga Roo, who were exactly as bizarre as their name would suggest. The best way I could describe them is like ‘Singing Kettle on Acid’ (for those not from Scotland, The Singing Kettle are a group of children’s entertainers) as they jumped and bounced through the song ‘Awesome Rainbows’. Their particular style became more apparent when Frank shared his first experience of the group (words to the effect of “5 minutes in I’m thinking what the fuck is this, by the last 15 minutes I’m dancing along and loving it with everyone else”), so maybe I missed the fun!

After that brief experience, we made our way down the staircase and down the sloping floor (great idea for a gig venue, especially for small people!) to get in a good position for Frank himself to appear. Appearing shortly after 9, Frank rushed straight into ‘Try This At Home’, ‘If Ever I Stray’ and ‘Losing Days’ before introducing the first of five new songs that we’d be treated to on the evening. I’ll be the first person to admit I’m not usually a fan of new songs at gigs, which perhaps makes me selfish (as Frank kind of pointed out!), but I generally can’t get the full enjoyment out of hearing a new song until I’ve had time to absorb it on record first. That being said, Frank has always felt like an exception as he’s always been superb at getting the audience right into his new stuff (and when he plays 24 songs, 5 new songs isn’t a stretch!). Before playing ‘Out of Breath’ he asked the audience if they wouldn’t mind keeping their camera phones away for the new songs – if only this was the way for the full set! (gig pet hate #1 !).

Previous Frank gigs have seen such fan favourites as ‘Four Simple Words’, ‘If Ever I Stray’ and ‘I Still Believe’ get an early airing, and whilst it is early days, none of the new songs leapt out at me as they did when I first heard them. My favourite of the new songs was probably ‘Silent Key’, which came towards the middle of the set and featured a terrific melody and some really moving lyrics. Throughout the set, all of his albums were represented with the exception of debut ‘Sleep is for the Week’, and it perhaps speaks to the strength of the material he has available now that I enjoyed every single song yet was still yearning for more! Particular highlights for me were ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’, album standout ‘I Am Disappeared’, and a beautiful rendition of ‘Jet Lag’ from his second album, ‘Love, Ire & Song’, which was disappointingly spoilt by several audience members more interested in chatting than listening (gig pet hate #2 !).

The latter part of the set was much more energetic and you could tell Frank had really found his groove. There was an entertaining bit of chat about a supposed ghost lurking in the venue, which lead to Frank being christened ‘Frank the Bastard Ghost’ by one of the Sleeping Souls, and a brief mention of the recent Scottish referendum, which led to a combination of cheers and boos from the audience! The energy ramped up on stage as well with a great rendition of former set closer ‘Photosynthesis’ where he had the crowd all sitting down at one point, and another song (forgive me, I can’t remember which one!) where the whole audience were encouraged to dance, leading to two particularly enthusiastic lads being invited on stage to dance with Frank himself.

The main set concluded with the fast version of ‘Long Live the Queen’ before a terrific encore that began with new track ‘The Angel Islington’ then finished with a furious three song salvo of ‘Prufrock’, ‘I Still Believe’ and ‘Four Simple Words’. There aren’t many experiences in life that are as much fun as a Frank Turner gig, and it’s difficult to put into words just how terrific he is as a live performer to someone who hasn’t seen him before. Having first seen Frank at King Tuts in Glasgow when ‘Love, Ire & Song’ was released, it is truly thrilling to see his rise through the local venues and to build up such a devoted and loyal following (including my parents now, who sadly missed Dunfermline!). Roll on the next album and the next tour I say!

Frank Turner is touring the rest of the UK just now.

Setlist

  1. Try This At Home
  2. If Ever I Stray
  3. Losing Days
  4. Out of Breath (New Song)
  5. The Road
  6. Glory Hallelujah
  7. Reasons Not To Be An Idiot
  8. Josephine (New Song)
  9. I Am Disappeared
  10. The Way I Tend To Be
  11. Silent Key (New Song)
  12. Jet Lag
  13. Sailor’s Boots
  14. Wessex Boy
  15. Photosynthesis
  16. Plain Sailing Weather
  17. Peggy Sang The Blues
  18. Love 40 Down (New Song)
  19. Recovery
  20. Long Live The Queen
  21. The Angel Islington (New Song)
  22. I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
  23. I Still Believe
  24. Four Simple Words
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