Live in Vancouver (03/03/16)
Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
Frank Turner, like many bands, has evolved over the years. He’s no longer the solo acoustic troubadour playing parking lots and hotel rooms and he’s progressed from being the first opening act for Gaslight Anthem to the main event. In the eight years since I first saw Turner hit the stage, he’s swapped labels, released four full length albums, broke his back and continued to tour, got healthy again and brought his full backing band with him from across the pond.
These changes can be good – it’s great to see a favourite grow in popularity; but that growth occasionally comes with drawbacks, the biggest of which comes from the massive variation of fans in the crowds.
For this reason, partway through the set; my friends and I all thought to ourselves “so, this is a Frank Turner show now?” It wasn’t Turner – he was good. He was alive, energetic, and sweaty as he jumped and hopped around the stage singing Recovery, The Road, Mittens, Polaroid Pictures, The Next Storm, Try This At Home and more but the crowd seemed to be a mixture of personas. There were double dates where both parties tried to flirt all show, the boyfriend cages that fiercely elbowed anyone that came near their energetically singing girl, the people living behind their cell phones, those few clusters of pogo sticking jumpers. No one quite knew what to do and even Turner himself tried riling the crowd up by dividing them into competitive sections.
It was relatively quiet, oddly calm for a Turner show – so much so that even my all time favourite The Ballad Of Me and My Friends failed to give me the chills that it normally does.
The crowd seemed to be waiting for permission to explode, almost there but holding back and it wasn’t until Turner pulled up a fan holding the “Frank Turner Tour Flag” on stage that they felt they got it. The flag has been travelling to every show on the tour, being passed from enthusiastic fan to enthusiastic fan. This particular fan, named Matt, was pulled to the stage and crowd surfed from one end of the room, around two opposing pillars and back to the stage.
From that point on, it seemed that those who wanted to dance had defacto permission to go wild and thus, they did.
Photosynthesis, Plain Sailing Weather, Reasons Not To Be An Idiot, Glory Hallelujah, St. Christopher Is Coming Home and Long Live The Queen. The set list, to put it simply, was solid and when the crowd could finally dance, they did. Whether he was full band – like on the raucous I Still Believe – or solo – like on Tattoo which he dedicated to his newly inked New Brunswick tattoo – the crowd finally felt alive.
They danced along to Four Simple Words at the end of the night, just as the song instructed them to and finally it felt the way a Frank Turner show should feel. It just took half the show to get to that point.