Frank Turner

By Mike O'Connor

Artist:  Frank Turner

Date / Venue:  Sunday April 7th, Bodega, Wellington

I'll admit that my expectations were pretty high as I walked down the hill to Frank Turner's gig at Bodega inWellington on Sunday night. Ahead of the two shows he played in New Zealand, he had told fans in aninterview with Libel to expect a "communal rock ‘n roll celebration." I can already hear you groaning, but Turner has spent much of the last eight years perfecting a unique style that is about as far from any sort of punk-rock cliché as can be imagined. I was hopeful that we'd be in for a treat.

For once there was not one, but two support acts who complimented the main act perfectly. Support acts often seem a forgotten afterthought, with many promoters seemingly choosing their support line-ups by pulling names out of a hat. Not here.  

With an already sizable crowd for half past eight, Will Wood kicked the evening off with a confident set that makes you wonder why he's been hiding out behind his well worn drum-kit for so long. In between swigs from a bottle in a brown paper bag, he quickly had the crowd behind him, before heading off to man the merch stand.

Wellington's D Burmester and the Blind were next on stage, and despite having to use phone-a-friend to get themselves a replacement drummer for the evening, managed to deliver a brilliantly tight and driving set - perfect to get the crowd ready for the main course.

And then like a whirlwind, on came Frank Turner. Launching straight into new single Recovery, he quickly had the crowd rocking along as he bounced around the stage with an enthusiasm that defied his voice - obviously needing a little warming up after Saturday night's show.

The setlist was heavy on material from his latest album, 2011's England Keep My Bones, but also featured enough older material to keep a vocal bunch of beer waving fans at the front of the stage happy. New songs went down well, suggesting his forthcoming album Tape Deck Heart will be one to watch when it's released later this year.

It really does seem that Turner treats every gig as a unique event - he was happy to deviate from his setlist when inviting an attendee of the previous nights' Auckland show to select the next song -which turned out to be a rousing and heartfelt acoustic version of Redemption.

Turner is not only a talented musician but a brilliantly charismatic frontman, and as the set started to wind up he was able to not only get the crowd singing to almost every song, but also to compete in a Wellington vs. Auckland dance-off, which resulted in plenty of swing dancing, funky shape cutting and a heap of crowd surfing - which I guess must be exactly what he meant when he said the show would be a communal rock 'n roll celebration.