Frank Turner’s gigs are always hugely uplifting affairs. He’s a musician who puts every drop of his energy into his live performances, while encouraging everyone to come together, make friends and dance the night away. On the same night that tragedy was striking Paris, this gig is all the evidence we need of music as a powerfully unifying force.
It’s a Friday night in a sold out Barrowlands and the atmosphere is electric as Turner takes to the stage with the Sleeping Souls. He kicks things off with Get Better, a defiant rallying cry from his latest album Positive Songs for Negative People. With its stomping guitars and massive refrain, ‘We could get better cause we’re not dead yet!’, he starts as he means to go on, as the crowd bellow back every word. The fast pace continues as he batters through the ever brilliant If Ever I Stray and Losing Days, with the crowd matching his rasping vocals all the way through.
He plays a mammoth set, consisting of about 30 songs from all six of his studio albums. Of the new songs on show, Josephine is the best. It sees Turner take on the electric guitar for a change and has a huge anthemic chorus which he encourages everyone to join in with. With the brilliant Sleeping Souls behind him, this is the kind of music made to be played in stadiums.
Of course, the set is not short of singalongs. Every one of Turner’s songs tell a story; they are so simple and personal, yet at the same time, belong to everyone in the room. Long Live the Queen is about a friend who passed away, yet turns into a joyful celebration of her life, while a rousing rendition of Polaroid Picture encourages everyone to ‘take a hold of the ones that you love’.
He’s a very likeable guy, holding the crowd in the palm of his hand with impassioned speeches about friendship and music, while ingratiating himself by listing all of the Glasgow venues he has played before (which is almost all of them by the way). This is his 1782nd show as a solo artist and he genuinely seems ecstatic to be in Glasgow’s legendary venue. During a lovely acoustic part of the show when he is left alone with his guitar, he dedicates Sweet Albion Blues to the people of Scotland, as an apology for his album England Keep My Bones, one that, he says, did not statistically do well north of the border. It’s fairly certain that after tonight, all will be forgiven.
When the Sleeping Souls return, the energy lifts once again as they batter through some more fan favourites, the best of which is Photosynthesis. During this, Turner encourages everyone to sit on the ground before jumping up for the brilliant chorus, ‘I won’t sit down, and I won’t shut up’. The crowd participation gives a real feel-good factor to the night, with dancing competitions being suggested. ‘It’s not like Glasgow to be a divided city after all’, Turner quips, along with starfish jumping through Recovery, the big single from 2013’s Tape Deck Heart. The dancing can’t have been too bad as the frontman begrudgingly admits that the Glasgow crowd has beaten his hometown Southampton by a huge margin.
The night finishes with a brilliant encore, beginning with the heart-wrenching Song for Josh, dedicated to a friend who took his own life in 2013. The stripped back song provides a real standout moment in the show, betraying his raw emotion as he holds the Barrowlands to a complete, reverent silence.
The set finishes in the collective spirit so well-known at Frank Turner shows with I Still Believe, an anthemic love song to rock n roll, and Four Simple Words. This gig does everything it should do: bring people together for a night of carefree singing and dancing. However, as news filters in from Paris, and with knowledge that Turner has sadly lost someone in the tragedy, the importance of nights like this at the Barrowlands become all the more clear.