While we all are happy to see artists we have followed gaining in popularity, the downside of even bigger touring commitments is the fact that often the areas bands and artists used to frequent get ignored in favour of larger venues and trips elsewhere around the world. I am pretty sure Frank Turner could legitimately opt for this nowadays, having toured across America, played at a sold out Wembley arena, and even with a spot in this summer's Olympic Opening Ceremony to his name. However, being one to never forget the little guy, here he is revisiting the North of Scotland, finishing off a gruelling 29 day, 4188 mile tour of Britain and Ireland with a trip up North to visit Dundee and Inverness before tonight’s tour finale in Aberdeen’s Lemon Tree. Great news for us lot who have been waiting for another return visit, but first we have a few more acts taking to the stage…
First up this evening we have a name familiar to many in Aberdeen in the form of local boy Mark McCabe, joining up with Frank and company for the Scottish dates of the tour. Taking to the stage to a surprisingly busy and enthusiastic audience who braved the cold to get down early, he proved himself a fantastic match for Frank Turner. His down to earth songs include a track dedicated to trying to say the things he can’t in person to his sister, and the tale of stubbornly not bothering to learn the local language while away in foreign countries. An opening act managing to keep the attention of an audience is something of a miracle at many gigs, yet Mark manages to pull it off in style.
It is with a strong sense of déjà vu that we welcome the next act to the stage in the form of Jim Lockey – previous touring partner of Frank Turner's and the support band on his last visit to Aberdeen. This time, though, he takes to the stage solo without his backing band the Solemn Sun. Similarly to that last visit Jim Lockey plays a superb set, taking a slightly slower pace compared to Mark with a more introspective and heartfelt approach to his songs. Now this music I enjoy just as much – if not even more – played solo compared to his last visit with the full band.
Frank Turner is the man everyone is here to see, as quite evident by roar of the crowd that bursts forth as he appears on stage and launches straight into his set. Similarly to Jim Lockey he has taken to the road this time without his normal backing band, instead opting to leave them at home and play solo – just him and a guitar on stage.
Frank has a well earned reputation for crowd interaction and getting everyone in his gigs involved, and this one is no different. Throughout the night we are treated to mass singalongs from the audience of pretty much every track played on stage, from early songs like The Real Damage to tracks from his latest album England Keep My Bones like Peggy Sang The Blues and everything in between. Slightly more bizarre is the crowd's new job as backing musicians to play the air harmonica in Dan’s Song, replacing the real harmonica part normally played by The Sleeping Souls. Perhaps not note perfect (especially given that the instructions are to play whatever you feel suitable) but definitely a rather fun way to get the crowd involved and one that put a smile on everyone’s face, if only for the worrying din of a few hundred people all playing completely different tunes with invisible harmonicas.
With a new album recorded and due out in the spring I expect to be hearing quite a few new tracks during the night. But, rather than fall into the trap of playing a whole set of new work that nobody in the audience has heard, Frank thankfully sticks to a solid set of crowd pleasers from his back catalogue, with only one new track to give a hint at what is to come in the form of the track Telltale Signs. He introduces this track as hopefully the last song about a certain someone from his past, alongside Reasons Not To Be An Idiot and I am Disappeared. Alongside his own work we are also treated to a few covers in the form of Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road and Tom Jones’ Delilah – two tracks that get a great reaction, and I doubt there was anyone not joining in during the chorus of Delilah, a track explained through a story of drunken events and feeling very out of place at an industry event. It shouldn’t be a surprise though to hear that the best reception is to some of the firm fan favourites such as the final track Photosynthesis.
I have previously never experienced a bad gig from Frank, and this one certainly wasn’t any different. This gig was a tour de force of fantastic songs, with Frank's entertaining and engaging banter with the crowd that leaves everyone crossing their fingers hoping it won’t be long before he returns.