It’s been a long time since Frank Turner came to Colchester – he can’t recall exactly when he last came to town during his set but his informative archive of shows informs me that the only time he’s played here was show number 332, at the long defunct The Twist back in 2007. Given that this is apparently show number 2443 a lot has happened since then. He’s here in Colchester for good reason; the Nick Alexander Memorial Trust, set up in memory of Nick Alexander, who was sadly a victim of the 2015 terror attack at the Bataclan, to fund projects and musical equipment for charities and community groups across the country, are launching their 2020 campaign, 40for40 with a goal of raising £40,000 on the year of Nick Alexander’s 40th birthday (in February). Frank is an old friend of Nick’s and is one of the patrons of the charity, so it seems fitting that he would perform this intimate show to launch the campaign, in the venue that Nick started his career in music.
The show is opened by Holly Ramos, punk guitarist and songwriter formerly of the band Fur who has a unique but really rather excellent voice and who pours her energy into her guitar playing – fairly simple but emotive non-the-less. Playing a mixture of solo songs, Fur songs and a new single from her current band every track was enjoyable. I feel ashamed for not having heard of Holly previously but I’m certainly a convert!
Next up are two piece Deux Furieuses who, apparently, have only played one acoustic set previously. Not that you’d know it, with the acoustic guitar ran through a Marshall amp and the standup drum kit the duo manage to create lovely clean acoustic pieces before occasionally hitting the overdrive and letting things break up. Musically Deux Furieuses are on point, and lyrically they really nail it too, even if I did find the lyrics in Song For Kat a little too direct personally (in a tribute to a friend who has taken their own life it did genuinely shock me to include the method/item they used, although I appreciate that everyone processes situations differently and the rest of the track was incredibly moving).
Taking to the stage to a tremendous applause, Frank Turner is clearly incredibly popular here. No surprises then that tickets to this gig sold out in minutes. The singalongs start quickly, with Frank playing a set that really spanned his entire solo career, mostly chronologically. Highlights include Long Live The Queen, dedicated to Nick, which sounded excellent and a new song, seemingly written to prove to friends that there is plenty to write about after marriage. Frank just seems very personable throughout too, telling stories about his recent shows in Sierra Leone (which sounded very interesting and I’d love to hear more about!) and general stories from life as well as satisfying two fans requests emailed to him in advance, with a song written for his god-daughter included among them.
After informing the crowd that it would be wrong to do the whole encore thing at an intimate acoustic gig, Frank rounds off the gig with a rousing rendition of I Still Believe, met with a triumphant singalong from the completely full Arts Centre. In a way it’s quite nostalgic; I first saw Frank Turner in 2007, probably the best year of my life as far as attending gigs goes, supporting Biffy Clyro and Yourcodenameis:Milo on a run of shows across the north of England. But really the depth of Turner’s back catalogue shows just how far he’s come as a musician and how he’s won over so many to become one of the best loved songwriters in the country. Given how prolific his touring schedule is it’s amazing that it’s been over 2000 shows since he last played here but, hey, he’s gained a lot of material and a whole load of anecdotes since. As far as artists to launch an excellent charity campaign go, he’s an excellent ambassador.
To find out more about the Nick Alexander Memorial Trust, their work and how to donate, click here.