Frank Turner (show 2745)
Monday 27 March 2023
This was an unexpected gig. Counting Crows announced a tour late last year. They’re a band that I’m neutral on. I don’t mind them, but wouldn’t choose to listen to them either. But when Frank Turner was announced as the support act I decided I was going immediately. Part of me winced as I dropped $150 on a ticket so I could see someone play a 30 minute support slot, but hey, money comes and goes, my love for Frank Turner is forever.
So imagine my delight today when I hear that Counting Crows have cancelled their show at Michael Fowler Centre, but Frank Turner has arranged a consolation gig at Meow. My condolences to Counting Crows fans, but that wasn’t the band I wanted to see. And this Meow show was free! I would have happily paid, but I won’t complain. This way I got to see a full Frank set!
I made sure to arrive at Meow early, wanting to avoid the risk of missing out if the venue hit capacity. When I got there around 6.30pm, there was already a queue snaking down the alleyway. We were let inside at 7pm and the venue was close to full at that point.
DEE opened the night with sweet, shimmering folky music. She was glowing under the blue light, with a sparkly sheer shirt and glittery make up. Her music was pretty sleepy, but her voice was stunning and carried plenty of personality. She was clearly chuffed that she’d been called in to open last-minute, but if she was nervous it didn’t show.
Frank Turner came onstage to rapturous applause. I think it’s fair to say that many people were like myself, and actually glad about the turn of events that led to this. Nothing against Counting Crows, but this sure beats only getting a short 30 minute opening set.
Always one to please his loyal fanbase, he touched on eight of his nine albums out to date, as well as playing the title track to his forthcoming album, Undefeated, and an obligatory Counting Crows cover, which made perfect sense. He shared how he grew up on metal and punk music, but learnt to play every song on his sister’s Counting Crows record because the guitar playing was easier to learn than Megadeth solos.
This is the second time I’ve seen Frank play solo. There were times that it seemed as if something was missing – obviously the music sounds better fully fleshed out by a band. But Frank had us help out, humming lines that would usually feature guitar solos, or clapping where a strong drum beat was needed.
He’s clearly a master at what he does. I guess you can’t help but attain excellence after playing 2744 shows. He knew how to play dynamically, where to invite crowd participation, and had great banter.
I’m always surprised by how much of Frank’s music is shouted – as opposed to sung – in a live context. But this is perfect for a fired up crowd wanting to join in. I’ve listened to these songs hundreds of times and I made sure to belt out the words along with everyone else. The energy was contagious.
I think one of the things I find most appealing about Frank’s music is that he can articulate feelings that I find incredibly relatable. I remember last time I saw him, he started his set with “Don’t Worry”. And as corny as it sounds, it felt like all the stress I’d been carrying just melted away. I love the fired up songs about the power of punk rock, about rejecting Nazis, about but I also love the sincerity of some of his more vulnerable moments. Tonight, “Get Better” and “Haven’t Been Doing So Well” struck a chord. Frank doesn’t know me at all, but I felt seen, and somehow supported, knowing that I’m not always alone in how I feel. It’s powerful.
And as soppy as it sounds, I think it is because Frank genuinely cares. He’d spent the day working on his pronunciation so that he could say “Aotearoa”. He played the song “Miranda” at special request from a 6 year old fan in attendance. And also mentioned how this song was topical, in light of the recent protests around Nazi anti-feminist figure Posie Parker visiting New Zealand to spread a message of hate.
And he put on this free show for us tonight.
Because he cares about his fans.
I came out of that show feeling revived. I was energised and refreshed and willing to take on the world. Now who’d have thought that after all, something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all?