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.

Hot Chip Live At HMV Picture House, Edinburgh 13/02/2010 with support act Casiokids

Norwegian band Casiokids bravely opened for Hot Chip at the HMV Picture house last Saturday. A relatively new band they did well to please the fans of one of the UK’s most popular electropop acts. The vocals which are entirely in Norwegian didn’t seem to put people off as their exuberant stage presence made for an enjoyable set. Despite this however, their focus on an array of eclectic electronic sounds seemed to deviate from the coherence of the music as a whole and as a result there were moments where the music sounded a bit sloppy and confused with too many contradictory sounds. A band definitely to look out for in the future and to do them justice they are still in their early stages and have already come a huge way in such a short time although I feel that they need to focus on the basic structure of their song writing before experimenting with different sounds/instruments.

As a warm blue light filled the stage Hot Chip emerged to hungry fans, their array of synthesizer’s, guitars and the latest addition of steel drums made for quite a spectacle. The thump of the kick drum announced the start of the set as they broke into the opening song ‘Thieves in the Night’ from their latest effort ‘One Life Stand’. The perfect start to a Saturday night the crowd were ecstatic from the get go with the impeccable blend of dancey and affable numbers appealing to everyone. Having just released a new album the set list as would be expected reflected this with highlights including ‘Brothers’ which they claimed was the first time they had played live and was beautiful with the gentle trumpet from Al Doyle. ‘Alley Cats’ another personal favourite from the latest album provided a mellow contrast to the more disco-house orientated songs such as ‘One Life Stand’ and ‘Take It In’.

Perhaps the highlight of the show was the alteration of some of their more classic songs which gave the audience a pleasant surprise. It’s always a bit depressing when a band reproduces their songs sound for sound when played live and the best live acts are those that add something different to the songs to satisfy the fans. In this case the addition of steel drums to the intro of ‘And there was a Boy from School’ was a refreshing change whilst in the case of ‘Ready For the Floor there was a completely different intro altogether and it was only when Alexis Taylor broke in with ‘Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it do it now’ that the audience acknowledged what song it was. Other songs which the crowd loved include ‘I Feel Better’ from the latest album which really got them going and ‘Hold On’ from ‘Made in the Dark’ where a sea of people filling the 1,500 person capacity of the picture house bopping along was quite a sight.

A terrific show to mark an excellent album although their choice of ordering of songs was a bit confusing. As they left the stage before the encore one was left wondering what they would play having already given us the likes of their most popular records and thus it seemed a strange choice to be playing tracks such as ’Slush’ which I really don’t rate very highly in what should have been the pinnacle of their set. Apart from this their actual playing cannot really be faulted and so it is not something that should really be questioned in relation to their overall performance which was far above par.