LIVE REVIEW: Frank Turner reminds us of the good times at The Clapham Grand

The singer-songwriter played a socially-distanced pilot show in South London last Friday. 

So before we start getting into the details, here’s a little warning: This may get a tad emotional (when we say a tad, we mean a lot, like as in a shedload), and no we won’t apologise for it. First live review after lockdown, here we go!

Since lockdown began back in March, Frank Turner has tirelessly been fighting to save the UK’s independent and grassroots venues, the very venues that he spent years touring in, even to this day, and the venues that he has never forgotten about. Through his Independent Venue Love live stream series he’s single-handedly raised over £200,000. Just a few weeks ago he’d already played a show at South London’s Clapham Grand to raise money for the venue. So it’s safe to say, we couldn’t think of a better artist to be the first we see after lockdown.

With stellar support from the charming Guise and Southampton hero Sean McGowan, Frank Turner managed to make us all miss gigs more than ever and at the same time make us all feel like everything is going to be okay somehow.

Starting his set with the reassuring Be More Kind, it was the perfect message to be sending in a world that truly has lost its mind. “Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind”, he sings and you can feel everyone’s goosebumps arising. It doesn’t take long for everyone to get emotional, it’s hard to not sing along at a Frank Turner show to start with, but if you haven’t been to a gig in over six months, it’s essentially impossible though everyone tried to restrain themselves (note, venue guidelines said no singing along!).

Turner’s set was filled with all the best tracks you could ask for. The always epic The Ballad Of Me And My Friends, second song of the evening, had us really choke us up, taking us back to the first time we all saw Frank, and the community around grassroots venues and punk. How many of us have “And we’re definitely going to hell, but we’ll have all the best stories to tell.” tattooed or written somewhere?! And boy we do have all the best stories to tell, if you’ve ever seen Frank Turner play live.

Followed by I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous, which is one of Turner’s most life-affirming tracks. Reminding us all, that life is good, maybe not right now, but it’s good. “Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings, about fire in our bellies and furtive little feelings, and the aching amplitudes that set our needles all a-flickering, and help us with remembering that the only thing that’s left to do is live.” No YOU’RE crying…

We get a few minutes to sort our emotions, and drinks, as Frank calls Sleeping Souls member Matt Nasir on stage to add mandolin melodies to the upcoming tunes, and to provide the stage banter we know and love. Diving straight into Logn Live The Queen, after a bit of back and forth about the track’s tempo, it’s getting quite hard to stay in our seats and not dance across the floor at the Clapham Grand.

As the first riffs of 1933 echo through the room, our inner punks are having a field day. Taken off Turner’s Be More Kind record, the song is a flaming criticism of the current political situation and if you’ve paid any attention to what’s been going on across the world, but especially in the UK and US, the lyrics will resonate with you. “But down here we still have a shower of bastards leading the charge, outside it’s 1933 so I’m hitting the bar.” Well, we don’t disagree.

Two brand new songs also make it onto the set list, The Gathering (“everyone’s allowed one lockdown song”) and The Work, which he wrote about his marriage to singer Jess Guise. Explaining more about the latter he also jokes about people complaining songwriting skills fizzle out if you get married “He got married, he won’t have anything to write about anymore – to which I say You’re clearly single.” 

Half way through the set, Frank reminds people of the house rules – guess the crowd had been singing along a little too much – and rightfully explains that if everyone obeys the rules more gigs can happen and more venues can be saved. “To the point where I can crowdsurf again, though crowd-surfing 2 metres above people might be quite hard.” he says poking topical fun at the social distancing guidelines and their application to punk shows.

The following half of the set is filled to the brim with “all the hits” including The Next Storm, Photosynthesis and Recovery. As Four Simple Words sneaks its way onto the setlist unplanned, it’s clear that couldn’t be a more fitting song to play. There isn’t a line in that song that doesn’t feel spot on or doesn’t bring back memories for many. But for anyone working in the music industry, this one hits home the most “On blood sweat and vinyl we have a built ourselves a house, so if the roof is on fire then we’re going to put it out.” Because that is what we do. Unfortunately, unlike in most other cases, this time the roof is on fire and we don’t have enough water.

And as if we weren’t all on an emotional rollercoaster already, Frank sees the evening out with an epic rendition of I Still Believe. And oh how true those words ring. The singer instills us with the belief that everything will be okay because we have rock n roll, they may not be okay right now, or maybe soon, but in the end they will be and to quote Alex Turner “Yeah, that rock’n’roll, it seems like it’s faded away sometimes, but it will never die. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”

If you can spare a few minutes please check out the below causes to help save the music industry, venues and musicians.

And we will leave you with the truest words through the speakers at The Clapham Grand that evening, because it’s all we have to help us through this all.

We’re heading out to the punk rock show, colleagues and friends condescend with a smile, but this is my culture man, this is my home. The dark huddled masses gather at the gate, yeah, the doors are at 7, and the show starts at 8. A few precious hours in a space of our own…