Frank Turner has been to Dover many times before, he’s even “got pi**ed in the pub next to the (Dover Priory) train station”, but he’s never played for an audience here. For gig 2,128, Frank took up the invite to come down and, for only his second gig of the year, well and truly raised the roof on one of the smaller venues he’s likely to play. In the former Harbour Station Booking Hall, that’s also doubled as a WWII morgue, Frank played his heart out to a very appreciative, capacity crowd of 280.
Frank’s locally based touring buddy, Will Varley, made the journey to “the easiest gig I’ve ever had to get to” to play a brilliant supporting act ahead of FT. Both men were solo throughout each of their sets, aside from a minor duet to close out Frank’s last track of the night.
Varley, who’s new album ‘Spirit Of Minnie’ is due out in February, passed on the chance to showcase much of his new work and went for a much-loved, crowd-pleasing, all-request style performance of his greatest hits. Apart from ‘Statues’, a relatively new release, Will casually took us through some of his impressive back catalogue. Having got the evening off to a great start with ‘As For My Soul’ he didn’t look back through ‘Seize The Night’, ‘Advert Soundtracks’, a sing-a-long with ‘We Don’t Believe You’ and the ever essential, ‘King For A King’. Varley gave us “A history of the world” with ‘Weddings And Wars’ and dug deep into his memory bank for the not often played classic, ‘Blood And Bone’ (complete with pause to crowd surf himself a Jameson’s from the very noisy bar). Will capped it all off with his tongue-in-cheek humour, giving us a lyrically adjusted (to take into account of the current Tory government) ‘I Got An E-Mail’.
Frank Turner’s long overdue entrance onto a Dover stage was finally realised shorty after nine with a huge cheer from the crowd. “I’m going to be bold”, he declared as he started off his set with a new track, ‘Get It Right’. A thumping ‘Get Better’ followed and by then he’d already captured a well and truly mesmerised crowd. Frank talked about his fears for the political future ahead of ‘1933’ before ‘The Road’ quickly segued into a driven and direct fan favourite, ‘Four Simple Words’. Turner’s passion and presence was clearly undiminished. Despite a relentless touring schedule and workaholic approach to his art he was still there to give it is all.
Making the trip to the port town with him (they’d been to the previous gig too) were three Germans who had fresh tats done, Frank joking that they may have splashed out on three Dover Castles ahead of striking up ‘Tattoos’, and a spirited ‘Redemption Song’. Turner was full of anecdotes all night. When he wasn’t in the full flow of his performance he was candid, charismatic and engaging. His tale of an aging punk rocker, prepped for a dystopian future with his amassed arms haul that he’d met on a flight in Australia was priceless. “You can’t eat gold”, was the message he’d taken from his chat. He then broke into his last new song of the night (“Don’t worry it’s not about killing people for food”, he reassured us), ’21st Century Survival Blues’.
A quick birthday celebration, for Matt Nasir of Frank’s backing band The Sleeping Souls, followed ‘Recovery’ ahead of ‘Mittens’ before Turner played us one of his favourite songs from his family camping days, ‘Julie’ by The Levellers. A tale of unrequited love, and a futile trip on the Eurostar, to see his then Parisian girlfriend (“She was way out of my league”) gave us a glimpse into the inspirations behind ‘To Take You Home’ before Frank tore into ‘I Knew Prufrock’. The gig approached its end with a brief pause of explanation that there would be no need for the absurdity of the encore as Frank set about the last four tracks with enviable energy and enthusiasm. A clap-a-long and sing-a-long ensued with ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’ before ‘The Way I Tend To Be’ and a brilliant ‘Photosynthesis’. A raucous ‘I Still Believe’ closed out a terrific set with Will Varley crowd surfing back to the stage from the merch stand to join Frank. Will provided backing vocals and harmonica to Frank’s fiery guitar and vocal as Turner’s first gig in Dover ended in triumphant form.
Frank Turner’s visit to Dover to play in the intimate surroundings of The Booking Hall (“Big up Stuart and Jane”) may have been long over due but it was definitely much appreciated by an adoring and enthusiastic crowd. He pledged to come back; lets hope it’s not too long before he does because it was a cracking gig.