Limelight 1 resembles an aerobics class as Frank Turner, the man with the plan, gets the Belfast crowd bouncing
Frank Turner, the man with the guitar. The man whose debut album, Sleep is for the Weak, was released six years ago, yet who is still dubbed a 'newcomer' by the British music press, even as album number five, Tape Deck Heart, hits the virtual shelves.
That, of course, is because Turner hasn't quite broken into the mainstream just yet. (The British music press are a fickle bunch.) Having toured relentlessly over the past few years, however, the Englishman has had plenty of time to get his act together. Going to see him live is sure to be a treat. It is.
Larry and His Flask get things started at crowded Limelight 1. How to describe them? Energetic doesn’t quite cover it; just watching them perform is entertainment enough – the appropriately named drummer, 'Jamin' Marshall, plays standing up, for example.
How Jeshua Marshall throws the double bass around the way he does is beyond me, but he does it. Ian Cook acts as though he is possessed (in the best and nicest way possible), while Dallin Buckley makes the most amusing faces whilst shredding guitar, and Kirk Statvold is also up for a laugh.
And what voices! Their sound is unique: folksy, with a bit of ska thrown in for good measure and a whole lot of rock and roll to boot. What’s not to like? It's safe to say that Larry and His Flash will leave Belfast with a few new fans in the can.
All this and the main act hasn’t even taken the stage... Well, that’s not technically true. Turner, clad in a Ramones Museum hoody, takes to the stage to play harmonica for a brief stint, and when he comes back with his band, The Sleeping Souls in tow, the Limelight is is well and truly warmed up.
Opening with 'Four Simple Words', a sing-along anthem from his latest album, Turner lays down the rules early on. If you know the words, you sing along. And within minutes the crowd is screaming, 'I wanna dance!'
The set-list is treat for old and new fans. Highlights include the controversial 'Glory Hallelujah' from England Keep My Bones (2011) as Turner belts out the wonderful line, 'There is no god, so clap your hands together.' The crowd duely obliges.
This is not a man who has anything to prove. Used to playing intimate gigs, Turner has perfected the art of intimacy. Just over half way through, he tells us that we’ve got the clapping, dancing and singing down. The next request is that we must jump up and down while clapping along to the chorus of 'Recovery', another new song. Suddenly this gig feels more like an aerobics class than a concert.
Despite performing at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, Turner has remained grounded. He introduces each of his band members individually during the wonderful 'Photosynthesis', from Love, Ire and Song (2008). (If you’re going to listen to a Frank Turner song, make it this one. In four minutes, it is Frank Turner in a nutshell.)
When the band finally leaves the stage, the audience makes no moves at all, chanting, 'One more tune!' (something I’ve only ever heard in Belfast – everywhere else, they chant the band’s name). The party isn’t over yet, and Turner and the Souls return for another set of songs. The main man dedicates 'I Knew Profrock Before he Got Famous' to the fans he had before he, too, made a name for himself.
The gig finishes as strongly as it starts with 'I Still Believe' – 'Something as simple as rock and roll would save us all'. Whoever thinks guitar music is dead and buried needs to see Frank Turner in action. He's more than just a man with a guitar – he's a man with a plan. It feels good to have been a part of it.