Frank Turner plays a very special show at Rescue Rooms to celebrate the venue's 20th anniversary...
It could be argued that Frank Turner, despite his Winchester heritage and his countless miles of the globe covered, remains a surrogate son of Nottingham. His relationship to the city has been a famously close one, performing early intimate shows at the likes of The Bodega and the dearly departed Junktion 7; he’s even gone on record multiple times to sing the praises of Rock City, his favourite UK music venue and the site of his historic 2000th show.
During one ill-fated trip to Rescue Rooms in 2008, the folk-punk troubadour had come under an unfortunate bout of food poisoning, getting through over half of his show before swiftly running backstage to throw up. It’s a night that he is more than keen to make up for, and tonight has a very special air to it. Topping off the week of celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Rescue Rooms, Turner is here to deliver a raucous, communal singalong to mark how far we’ve come since 2003.
However, it isn’t just Rescue Rooms turning 20, as Turner’s record label Xtra Mile Recordings is also entering the second decade of its existence. A fiercely independent label, it has been known to foster a sense of community around its artists and its fanbase, with bands often touring together and sharing the same line-up at festivals.
Tonight is no exception; opening up the show is the “newest member of the Xtra Mile family” by her own admission, Hannah Rose Platt. She and her double bass player open up the night with a charming display of folky ditties, one of which is latest single Dead Man on the G Train, a murder ballad that feels timeless in its delivery.
Next up is Tom Jenkins, a professional sheep-shearer by day, but by night a weaver of magical tunes. His set is spellbinding, with poetical songs about family, his Welsh heritage, and how in another life he “could have been the next Tom Jones”. It’s a fantastic set, and I look forward to hearing more from Jenkins in the future.
The final support act comes from Jess Guise, singer/songwriter and Turner’s other half. By this point, the crowd has almost doubled in size, and it’s hard to find a good spot to view the stage, so we watch what we can from the platform near the balcony stairs. It’s a testament to Guise’s popularity that so many people have come down to see her, and it is a very good set.
Her audience repartee is endearing and has a unique style reminiscent of classic 70s folk singers. But throughout the set, I am distracted by people next to me who think this quiet acoustic show is the perfect backdrop for their conversations. It’s an annoying blight on an otherwise delightful set, but none of that is the fault of Guise, who is always a delight to watch.
As Frank himself walks onto the stage, he is given a hero’s welcome. He is completely alone
tonight; no Sleeping Souls, no mandolin backing from Matt Nasir, it’s purely himself and a choir
full of enthusiastic fans. He opens on fan favourite I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous,
and the energy is at 100 from the get-go. There is absolutely no feeling in the world quite like
belting “the only thing that’s left to do is LIIIIIIVE” at the top of your lungs with a room full of
people doing the same, and the show only continues to run at this peak from here.
It’s a set comprised of hits, deep cuts and even deeper cuts, making sure everybody is satisfied, no matter if this is your first time seeing Turner, or your hundredth. We get a run from classics If Ever I Stray, Recovery and The Road into The Next Storm, as Turner jokes about the audience prematurely singing “rejoice!” during the first chorus; “whoever does this has to buy a drink for every single person tonight!”
He treats the audience like old friends, demonstrating how the Frank Turner fanbase is more of a community than any other. People are hugging, limbs aloft, belting the words to The Real Damage, a 2007 track about the walk of shame after a heady few nights out, something that a lot of people tonight will retrospectively relate to the next morning.
The deepest of deep cuts come later in the form of Rescue Annie, a song from 2019’s No Man’s Land about the Resusci Anne doll requested by a fan who works in the NHS, and Smiling at Strangers on Trains, a stripped-back version of a song from his former life in
hardcore band Million Dead, requested by his wife Guise on the drive to the show.
Needless to say, both songs are treated like anthems by the crowd, despite their relative obscurity. Turner is an interesting case; a musician who operates on the fringes of mainstream, yet has played arenas, headlined festivals and recently had a number one album. It’s all down to the intense connection with his fanbase, and no-one knows this quite like Turner himself.
Whenever he can, he reaffirms his deep gratitude to both us and venues such as Rescue Rooms for giving him a platform, and it’s a sincerity that is believable. During Photosynthesis, one of his most iconic songs, he pulls a fake-out encore on the crowd, orchestrating a “one more song” chant before the final chorus.
And what a final run of songs it is; Four Simple Words, Get Better and I Still Believe. A euphoric run of songs to close a sensational show. Turner promises to be back here in 20 years time for the 40th anniversary celebration of Rescue Rooms, but deep down, we’re all selfishly hoping it will be a little bit sooner than that for his return.
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