Frank Turner Live at HMV Picture House, Edinburgh With Support Acts Crazy Arm and Chuck Ragan 16/03/10

Sadly I arrived too late to see any of Crazy Arm’s set and instead was met with the gruff voice of Chuck Ragan as I entered the Picture House. Playing with a simple band consisting of Jon Gaunt on violin sporting one of the best beards I have ever seen and Digger Barnes on the double bass, it was an excellent start to the evening and surprising to have such an established musician playing a support slot. Like Frank Turner, it is interesting seeing Ragan’s switch from punk rock to folk following the split of ‘Hot Water Music’ in 2006 when he took up a solo career. His hoarse vocals and accompanying harmonica are appropriate for his change and tracks such as ‘Geraldine’ were striking.

Frank Turner played one of the jolliest and most uplifting gigs I have been to. All his songs contain stories that give you an insight into the life and person of the Winchester born musician and seeing him live is like an invitation into this world and his circle of friends. A big change from his post-hardcore band ‘Million Dead’, Turner manages to effortlessly combine elements of folk and punk rock, encapsulating the very ethos of a ‘man and his guitar’ with everyone in the crowd seeming really up for it, knowing all the words and dancing arm in arm.

The set list contained a good combination of new and older material with Frank powering through close to twenty songs. Opening with ‘Photosynthesis’, the lyrics seem highly appropriate when he sings: ‘now I’ll play and you sing, the perfect way for the evening to begin’ whilst ‘To Take you Home’ combined a catchy guitar part with heartfelt vocals, Ben Lloyd on Mandolin and the rumbling of the floor tom as drummer Nigel Powell stood up to deliver the epic ballad. ‘Sons of Liberty’ from his most recent album ‘Poetry of the Deed’ was a personal favourite, an exclamation against politics and the ‘establishment’ with an excellent floaty keyboard part and brilliant solo from Turner although slightly disappointing that it didn’t contain the violin part that features on the record, I was half hoping that Gaunt would come out and rock the solo.

The encore saw the addition of Ragan and Gaunt to the fray as they played one of Chuck’s songs, ‘Revival Road’, it seemed strange that Frank was headlining the tour and that a musician he enjoyed in his younger years was supporting him although no hard feelings seemed to be shared. The Edinburgh crowd were given a special treat as Frank gave us a rendition of one of his much older tracks ‘Casanova Lament’ delivered beautifully with nothing but his acoustic guitar. ‘The Road’ closed the show where Frank posed a sly nod when he sang ‘to the north’ and the bridge of the song where the guitar part breaks down and becomes quite heavy and reminiscent of a Million Dead Frank was a fantastic crescendo to finish on.

All in all it appeared as though it wasn’t just the crowd that were having a really good time and it always vastly improves the enjoyment of a gig when the band are messing around and acting as though they are merely really good friends having a jam. If only Frank really was my friend.

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