On February 12th, 2014, Frank Turner played his biggest headline show to date, accompanied by the Sleeping Souls, at the O2 Arena in London. To say he looked at home on such a huge stage would be an exaggeration, but he absolutely knew how to handle it. After support from Beans on Toast and Flogging Molly, the crowd were more than ready for Frank to start his show, a near 2 hour set combining all the classics, old and new, as well as some surprises.
A democratic way to approach a show at the O2 was taken by Beans on Toast, the audience even got a say in the set list: “Right, do you want to hear a song about the moon or a song about iPhones?” Although, when the crowd chose the ‘wrong’ answer, another vote was held to rectify their ‘mistake’. Aside from the voting, Beans performed as if he was born to play arena shows, entertaining the audience with dance routines and jokes, alongside delivering his unique songs about sex, drugs and politics with charisma and skill.
The audience were also banned from clapping along to his songs, as he claimed to have ‘a terrible sense of rhythm’ and that he would get confused. Following Beans’ fantastic warm up, Flogging Molly came on, all the way from the USA, and surprised everybody. Their music is the type that is impossible to listen to and not want to do a jig. The perfect precedent for Frank Turner, getting the audience in the mood to dance, warming up everybody’s singing voices and leaving them ever wanting more, but more than ready for the headline act.
Frank Turner appeared on stage at 9pm, without keeping the audience waiting, and dived straight into ‘Photosynthesis’. This was the first surprise of the evening, choosing what is often his encore as his opening song, but the decision paid off, as everybody screamed with delight and excitement and waited until the end of the song as Frank sung ‘and I won’t sit down, and I won’t shut up, and most of all I will not grow up!’ to crouch down on the floor and launch themselves into the air as they heard the first chord of the final chorus. Following this killer opener, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls played through the classics that everybody wanted to hear: ‘If Ever I Stray’, ‘Wessex Boy’, ‘Peggy Sang the Blues’, ‘Recovery’, ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ and ‘The Way I Tend To Be’, every one of which was sung back at the band by more than 10,000 people.
It was a show full of special moments, plunging into the uplifting ‘Eulogy’ at the most unexpected moment, having the entire room singing the controversial ‘Glory Hallelujah’ together and doing star-jumps through every chorus of ‘Recovery’, but the most special part of his set was his acoustic performance of the stunning ‘I Am Disappeared’, a song which is rarely played live, but the most wonderful treat when it is. Those who had looked at the set list before the show were taken aback, and then everyone was blown away. The audience were then treated to something else incredibly special, a very rare performance of ‘To Take You Home’, a song that even Frank Turner fans who don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times they’ve seen him live have ever seen played before. These two performances are what made the show one of Frank’s best.
After a memorable and outstanding main set, the encore was a simple-yet-brilliantly-done crowd-pleaser; a string of classics starting with a solo performance of ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’, before getting the Sleeping Souls straight back on to launch into into ‘I Still Believe’ and ‘Four Simple Words’, creating the perfect end to the evening. If every single person in the room hadn’t already got on their feet to dance, they were up during the last song.
Frank’s 1527th show was one of his best. His performance was phenomenal, and it looks like he’s still getting better. Who knows what could be in store for Frank Turner and his fans in the future, but after a UK number 2 album in 2013, no one’s doubting that it will all be good things. He and the Sleeping Souls have one of the most loyal fan bases in the UK, leading Frank towards becoming one of the most successful independently signed artists around, and he is one of those, in 2014, who truly deserves all of the success that he is finally getting. No one demonstrates better the fact that hard work and dedication pays off.