(Planet Me)
Sunday, April 12, 2015
 
FRANK TURNER : "The Road Beneath My Feet" Tour : Live London Cecil Sharp House 25 March 2015 + Royal Albert Hall 29 March 2015.
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The more I think of Frank Turner, the more he seems like a modern day, British Bruce Springsteen : constantly touring and performing, releasing records at a rate unseen in the modern age – an album every two years with a b-sides compilation every three years, and on something like show 1,679, Turner is perhaps the most obvious example of the modern rock age : with the devolution, and democratisation of information, and the easy availability of music, no band or talent is given time to nurture in quiet. As Noel Gallagher rightly pointed out, if Oasis had begun in the modern age, they would have been shot down in the first six months, as they wouldn't've had five years in obscurity to hone the eleven songs that became “Definitely Maybe”. The portal to music is not just three inky weeklies and a handful of monthlies alongside around 400 metal magazines (all using mis-spelt K's and Z's) and hand traded tapes. Any band, instantly. It's like someone made my teenage wishes true.

Given, the circumstances, the world seems polarised. Top Of The Pops, et al, have all died. About the only thing left is Later With Jools Holland, which is rubbish, Utter rubbish. Good music, that is music made by people who like it, and don't just see it as a way of achieving fame, dressing up as a mannequin and miming to pre-packaged dance routines – is not marginalised, but almost a subculture that is largely ignored except by Sky Arts. Radio – well, the popular stuff, is generally such absolute tosh it's not even worth listening to. Bubblegum, not steak.

Frank Turner performs twice within a week in London, one, (for me, an unexpected and short notice) Book Launch with 90 minutes Q&A, 60 minute live set and a signed book... the other a full band set at the Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

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On the Thursday, Frank plays the divine (and extremely civilised) Cecil Sharp House, Britains Folk Museum, starting with a 90 minute Q&A, which is divided into a 50 minute discussion with Ian Winwood, which sounds like two old friends talking total nonsense, and veers into many fascinating areas that they just touch the surface of. The next 40 or so minutes are fan questions, some of which are rambling essays, all of which are of no small interest. After a short break, Frank appears again on stage, this time just one man and a guitar. It's the solo shows that I far prefer. Good as the band shows are, for music, it's one man and his guitar that allows both a flexibility and the intimacy that sits at the heart of the songs. With the acoustic set, there's generally one song from each album, and some choice cuts – as well as two from the upcoming album, namely (and for the first time in several months) the fabulous “Mittens”, which is perhaps his finest song yet about a love-that-doesn't-quite-fit. It's not well known, but as with the greatest songs, it is both vague enough to be universal, and specific enough to be personal, and it is clearly about something I think we have all felt at some point. Performed acoustically, these songs are well, more successful in reaching me. Stripped to their rare and absolute essentials, the songs connect in a way the band versions sometimes don't : raw, heartfelt, absolute. (And it's not that the band versions are better or worse, just different).

And the lyrics? Good songs with rubbish lyrics are well, just rubbish. The words have to mean something. Otherwise it's sound and fury signifying nothing … an empty vessel.. a poorly written superhero movie that is all storm and no centre. And the words? My partner said that it's Bedroom Philosophy, but, what's wrong with that? You can have words that mean something, or bullshit lyrics about Horses called Elsa that have Alka-Seltzer. I always want lyrics that mean something. Someone who sings from their heart and who fucking means it. If you don't mean it, don't waste my time. There's so many people, singing so many meaningless songs. I just want a song that makes me feel... not alone in this world. That it's not just me that feels that life weighs ten thousand tons. That it's not just me who wants to see the road rise up with my enemies defeated in the mirror behind. We all have enemies.

Songs make life better. They make life more bearable. They're sometimes the sonic prozac that takes the edges off. Sometimes.

Frank Turner, London Cecil Sharp House, 25 MArch 2015

Cecil Sharp House :
Barbara Allen /
Mittens /
My Kingdom For A Horse /
Love Ire & Song /
I Am Disappeared /
Journey of The Magi /
The Way I Tend To Be /
Get Better /
Somebody To Love

At the Albert Hall – not only Turner's first show here, but his first visit here – there's support from the renowned Idlewild, before a relatively conventional greatest hits set. The idea of an emerging greatest hits set is a little odd, really, as people don't tend to have 'hits' as such anymore, and the single is near enough extinct as an artifact. The line between a 'hit' and not is so small these days, and access to music so free, hits tend to be just.. songs that have videos made for them.

But one look at the set list,and we have a clear view of the world. These songs are personal, and accessably so. Some songs are so personal as to be impenetrable, and no one can get close to them – and we can all name bands guilty of that. To some the words may be obvious, but to others, they are clear, concise, personal, meaningful. And the point of art is to communicate, to reach across the barriers, the walls that people build between each other, the years of learned behaviour, the repression, the love that dare not speak its name, and thus, great art jumps across those barriers, connects two people in common ground. If any of you don't at least, see yourself in some of these words.. well, I worry. Do you have days where it feels like you just can't win? Days where you don't know where to begin? Moments where sleeping gets tiring? Years where you want to see the road rising up ahead of you and the ashes of your enemies in the mirror behind? Of course. Because we are human, we are flawed, beautiful, perfect and imperfect. These aren't candy coated songs of love, but real moments, made of hope, and self-awareness. Sure, I could tell you about how the drums sound, how the crowd responds, but ultimately, these songs connect between people, and make my world a better place. Sometimes you feel alone in a crowd. Sometimes you feel alone, and yet not alone, surrounded by strangers who are the kind of people you'd want as friends. And what more do you need? I still believe something as simple, and something as small, as rock and roll, could save us all.

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Royal Albert Hall :
Four Simple Words /
The Road /
Glory Hallelujah /
Reasons Not To Be An idiot /
Get Better /
If Ever I Stray /
Out Of Breath /
Substitute /
Journey of The Magi /
Balthazar, Impresario /
Song For Eva Mae /
The Way I Tend To Be /
Love, Ire & Song /
Wessex Boy /
Photosynthesis /
Plain Sailing Weather /
Peggy Sang The Blues /
Try This At Home /
The Next Storm /
Recovery /
Long Live The Queen /
Angel Of Islington /
Ballad Of Me And My Friends /
I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous /
I Still Believe

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