Frank Turner: Vietnam to Leicester; being moved by the music

Courtesy of Louise Wersching

Courtesy of Louise Wersching

Last week, I went to see Frank Turner perform in Leicester’s De Montfort Hall. My friend and I rocked up after the questionable support act had left, warm on rum and coke and with a small hip flask (filled with the former) smuggled in by tucking it into my bra.

I love music, love singing in the shower and strumming my ukulele tunelessly but I don’t often go to live gigs. I’ve only been to one Festival (with a capital F) in my life and I haven’t actively looked into going into another since then, which incidentally was in 2008. However, the last two events that I booked tickets for and went to especially, were both to see Frank Turner.

Oh Frank, how you move me. That man has a song for every flavour of your life. I did realise though, as I was standing in the midst of the heaving crowd, dancing on the spot to avoid the sedater members of the audience in my vicinity, that his music is pretty mopey. Don’t get me wrong, I love mopey music! But Frank’s music has a dark edge, and the way he plays occasionally feels like he is personally unthreading the tendons of my heart.

His performance last Friday was one of those times where he played all those good heart-breaking songs. One in particular is actually my favourite song by him: Jet lag. He performed it without the Sleeping Souls, his long-time accompanying band, completely backlit so that he was a solo dark silhouette against blinding, white light. This was very much my favourite moment of the gig and I remember feeling waves of optimism crashing over me as I sang and swayed to the song. It’s fairly strange to say that such a sad song can make you feel that happy but that is one of the reasons why I love his music. But also it feels like there is some special, accidental significance to his choosing to play this particular song, a bit of an oldie now, at this particular gig.

The last time I saw Frank was in District Four of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where I was living and working at the time. Now I have plenty of amazing things to say about my time in Vietnam. I still miss the throbbing intensity of the city, bowling from extreme to extreme without ever stopping. But the one, rather large, life-changing thing that happened to me while I was there, occurred just before I went to watch Frank play. In fact, one of the silver linings I picked up from this particular experience was that if it hadn’t happened, I might not have driven passed the building that he was going to play at and therefore would not have seen the posters. Anyway, raw and miserable, I clung on to this rather inconsequential bright-side in the run up to the show. And it was a great show. I got to meet the man himself and have a picture taken with him. He even asked me if I had a song request and of course I asked for Jet lag. Unfortunately for me, the atmosphere (brilliant, energetic!) was too upbeat for the song so he didn’t play it that night and I really promise that I wasn’t too bothered about this at the time. I just danced and sang along “just like everybody else.”

But when I saw Frank this time and he plays this song, the song about travelling too much and being too far away from those you love, it felt like it had completed the circle that has been left open since the partially-mentioned original event. I won’t say anything really cheesy and imply that I feel massively healed by this completion. But I will say that I felt a bit better, a little vindicated. It reminded me that time moves on and how different my situation is from when I saw Frank the last time.

This is all occurred in the several minutes that it took for the song to be played. Then I turned to my friend and she poked me in the back and we started dancing to the next song.