After the "intimate" show at the Garage a couple of weeks ago, last Wednesday I found myself travelling to Norwich with my good friend, and Frank Turner obsessive, Jess to see him again at the Waterfront. He was there to play a solo set as a warm up for his turn headlining the Festival Republic stage at Reading. I've seen Frank live half a dozen times now but this was my first time seeing him without his band The Sleeping Souls so I was quite excited.
When we arrived at the Waterfront there was a massive queue to get in the venue, something I'm really not used to. It did however mean that there was a nice big crowd for support act Ducking Punches to play to. On this occasion Ducking Punches were actually just frontman Dan Allen playing by himself rather than having the full band with him (although three of the other four members of the band did make appearances on stage). I saw the full Ducking Punches experience live at the Brixton Windmill last year and was very impressed, so was quite intrigued to see what Dan would be like on his own. Happily, he was absolutely perfect. His voice was on top form, and the lack of backing band actually made it feel even more powerful. Ducking Punches’ songs are usually about hard times, such as dealing with mental health issues and loss, and hearing them played acoustically made the songs so much more emotional. The set had a few songs from the last album Dance Before You Sleep, including the excellent It's Been A Bad Few Weeks and Big Brown Pills From Lynn, and a handful from the upcoming new album Fizzy Brain, all of which got me very excited for its release. The final song of the night was a very personal one for Dan. It's a tribute to a good friend of his who sadly committed suicide last year. Before the song Dan spoke a bit about suicide. Did you know that the biggest killer of men under the age of 35 is suicide? I had no idea. Dan said, and I agree, that it's important for men to talk to people about their troubles and not just bottle things up. This was an excellent set; blew me away. Good work Dan.
Up next was Frank Turner. I was confused when he took to the stage; he wasn't wearing his trademark white shirt and black tie! I guess they were in the wash ahead of his Reading appearance. As he has just released the excellent Positive Songs For Negative People (which Jess reviewed here) the set started with a couple of songs from that (The Angel Islington and Get Better), which went down a storm. The room was in full voice for the duration of the set, at times even drowning out Frank’s voice, which was also on top form. Frank's performance seemed a lot more laid back than it normally is. Perhaps because it was just him, his guitar and a relatively small room compared to what he's used to these days. A bit of a throwback to the old days. Speaking of which, he threw in the song that really made me a Frank Turner fan - Once We Were Anarchists. I've been seeing Frank perform for a long time now and I never expected him to ever play it and I fanboyed a little bit when he introduced it. Thanks to the girl who emailed him requesting it, you rock! It was interesting to hear some of the songs performed acoustically,.If Ever I Stray, for example, has a big guitar part after the chorus and it felt odd that it wasn’t there. The sing-a-long for the chorus was gigantic though, so it was a great choice for the set. I Am Disappeared is another that worked very well acoustically and hearing it gave me a new found appreciation for the song. In one of the most bizarre but very entertaining moments of any gig I've ever been to, Mr Turner did a cover of the legendary Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell, to the delight and bemusement of everyone there. It workedsurprisingly well as an acoustic song. It did lack the motorbike sound effects though.
I love The Sleeping Souls but it was an absolute treat to see Frank performing like this and I'd love to see it more.It was another excellent gig from him, the man knows how to play a show and play it brilliantly. Both he and Dan were fantastic, as a punk rocker I don't often go to fully acoustic shows but I can't imagine I will go to many better than this.