Scorners may question the validity of posh boy Frank Turner daring to redefine punk in humanist terms - strangers as friends, just because it stands against current xenophobic populism. But the niggling urge to “Mumford bash” [as it is called down our way] does seem utterly puerile and futile in the face of such plentiful melodic energy and lithe, gazelle-like pogoing on display at Auckland’s Powerstation - from both singer, his band and old and young fans alike.
Support from Aussies Emily Barker and The Hard Aches [including a duet] goes down well, especially with the stalwarts in the front row, who everyone knows are just here for Frankie, and who can sometimes be guilty of just tolerating the support. Not tonight. Power pop punk-lite it might be, but the themes on The Hard Aches new album Mess delve into the heart of [male] mental health and make songs like I Feel Like I’m Dying rise above the spikey guitar stabs and rolling toms. Plus, drummer Alex Upton might just have the biggest crash cymbal I ever did see.
Master jumper Frank Turner bounds on stage for the 2,286th time in his solo career, to the sultry bass of 1933, from his latest album, Be More Kind.
His band The Sleeping Souls - bassman Tarrant Anderson, guitarist Ben Lloyd, red synthersizerist Matt Nasir, and Nigel Powell on drumming duty - are equally durable as they shimmy, sway and thwack their way through a set that reaches out to a packed venue.
The balcony is filled with kids - a non-alcohol serving zone - and it’s a bit of a shame they can’t be moshing down the front, coz it’s clear from the maniacal writhing of upper torsos on high, that that’s where they wanna be. Elsewhere, there are groups of elders, sitting patiently on sofas around the edge of the main floor. They seem to be quietly tolerating Mr Turner’s newer, lighter sound, but as soon as an old one comes on, they’re rushing into the front to be counted.
Frank Turner addresses his audience, upping the rabble, as either “my friends” - from the title track of his new long-player - or and more frequently, as “motherfuckers”, which as per the notion that ‘there are no bad words, only bad contexts’, serves as a term of endearment from someone who clearly loves playing live and the jubilance which he can create by doing so.
Off go The Sleepless Souls for a bit of Frank solo time. He delves deeper into a plentiful back catalogue that shows off what a consummate - if at times overly strummy - songwriter he is. Strangely, during this alone time, he is bathed in rhubarb and custard, school-musical quality lighting, which sits awkwardly with his tales of underdogs, rallying cries and persistent, righteous struggle.
The souls boys bounce back on. Ben Lloyd is flailing his baby blue Fender around superbly. Many in the crowd have turned it up to evangelical. The pantomime that is an encore is acknowledged. Frank Turner is more rabble rousing than ever. As he bows out, he orders his mob, “Don’t fucking take shit for granted”. What they can take for granted though is that Frank Turner will be back, and his jubilant fans, his ‘motherfuckers’, will be up for it.
Radio 13 thanks and credits Matthew King for all the images featured in this article.