Frankly, Mr. Turner

Frank Turner Galway 2012

Last Wednesday night, I went to bed earlier than usual as I had a big day ahead of me on Thursday. I had to be up before 9.00am the next morning to try to buy tickets for the Cork leg of Bruce Springsteen’s visit to Ireland next year. Across the city, my friend John was going to try to get tickets for Limerick and later that day the two of us were travelling to Cork to see Wessex boy Frank Turner play Cyprus Avenue on the opening night of a short trip around Ireland. We’d already seen Frank play a storming set at Wembley Arena in March this year and we caught The Boss in top form in Dublin in July. Unfortunately I awoke at four in the morning with a terrible pain in my stomach and made a few journeys to the bathroom to talk to God on the great white telephone before somehow managing to secure tickets for Springsteen in Cork. John got the tickets for Limerick as well and then I told him about my eventful night. We agreed that I’d go back to bed and would only make the journey south if I made a recovery. I didn’t

Fortunately, we also had tickets for Frank Turner’s gig in Galway the next day. I woke up feeling a lot better and the weather was wonderful, so we decided to head north to the Roisín Dubh. Galway was nice and busy and a festive Christmas market proved to be the perfect place for a couple of glasses of mulled wine before the gig. I was now feeling a lot better and even more so after a supper of fish & chips at McDonagh’s. The Roisín Dubh is a lovely pub located just outside the city centre and it has a small room at the back where bands play. We got in early and chose a nice vantage point near the stage. Dublin songwriter Seán Riddick kicked things off with a short solo set and was followed by more of the same from Jim Lockey from England. Both performers played energetic sets and certainly held the audience’s attention with their punky blend of folk rock. However, there was one particular audience member who sounded Scottish whose infectious laugh proved a bit distracting. We decided to move closer to the stage when she, her companion and her laugh appeared in front of us

Frank took the stage only a few minutes after entering through the back door of the venue. He launched straight into I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous and didn’t mess around with the next few songs. Frank’s a big man for audience participation and our first chance to sing along came during his popular hymn, Glory Hallelujah. The low price of the tickets and the themes of his songs mean that Frank attracts a young audience and it was refreshing to hear them join in with great gusto on the song’s refrain, “there is no God”. It’s always nice to see another nail hammered into the coffin that is the Irish Church. The first half of the show continued to build in momentum and a couple of Frank’s better songs, Substitute and Wessex Box, brought us swiftly to the halfway point of his set. We continued to join in on backing vocals and even on air harmonica for a couple of songs. Some of Frank’s more enthusiatic fans sang along to the majority of his songs, but may not have been in full possession of his back catalogue as they stopped to chat with each other right in front of us when they didn’t seem to know a particular song

Frank is aware that his fans like to contribute as much as possible and so he doesn’t seem to include new material in his sets. However, he did introduce a new song from his next album called Wherefore Art Thou, Gene Simmons? The bassist and vocalist from Kiss claimed to have slept with 4,600 women throughout his life and Frank’s song offers advice to his female fans to be aware of predatory rock stars like Mr. Simmons. A couple of songs later, Frank accepted a written request for a song from a member of the audience. Frank is a great performer and his melodic songs are quite uplifting, so he reminds me a lot of Bruce Springsteen. Frank is also a fan of The Boss and I was delighted that the song requested was my favourite song by Bruce, Thunder Road. Frank delivered a passionate version in Galway and myself, John and a few more sang along with Frank while the two fans in front of us used the time to catch up with each other. It was a pleasant bonus that Frank chose to sing Thunder Road and I hope that the song’s original composer will do the same when he visits Ireland next year

Frank continued the show with his moving tribute to a dying friend (Long Live the Queen) before finishing with I Still Believe and its wonderful refrain of “Who’d have thought, that after all, something as simple as rock and roll would save us all?” Frank then popped behind the curtain for a few seconds before returning for an encore that included a rousing rendition of Tom Jones’ Delilah and a defiant version of his own Photosynthesis. Frank’s Roisín Dubh gig in Galway was a lot more low key than the Wembley gig earlier this year, but just as enjoyable. I would urge you to go see him if you ever have the opportunity. Below, you can check out a version of Thunder Road from a festival in Hamburg a couple of years ago. This is dedicated to an old college friend of mine called Seán, who I bumped into at the gig. And a big thank you to John who changed his plans to drive up to Galway following the abandonment of the Cork trip. We could’ve played safe, but in the end the journey brought joys that outweighed the pain

Thunder Road (The Boss cover) – Frank Turner