Village Hall, Chadwick End
November 17, 2015
Frank Turner is no stranger to gigging off the beaten track. In the past year he’s rocked up with his guitar to the squatted 12 Bar on London’s Denmark Street, serenaded a handful of folk in an Italian fan’s front room and plugged in and played at backroom bars and pokey record stores across the world. Sure, he’s more than capable of selling out an arena tour – as he did in 2014 – but this is a man who doesn’t see a distinction between a 100 capacity room and a 10,000 one. Tonight’s Jack Rocks show is a case in point.
It’s a windy winter’s evening in Chadwick End, a tiny village just outside of Solihull and Turner is about to embark upon his 1,787th show, which is being held for a Jack Daniel’s competition winner and 80 of her closest friends and a few of the Frank Turner faithful. After support slots from Tom McRae and J.D. Smith, Turner bounds onto the stage. “These are the words I’ve been longing to say my whole life – Good Evening Chadwick End!,” he hollers, like he’s heading up Wembley Stadium rather than a building that we’re pretty sure features heavily in Radio 4’s farmer drama The Archers. Musically, things start soft, with the plaintive strumming of ‘The Angel, Islington’ following a brief apology for its London-centric lyrics. Turner might be brandishing an acoustic, but the softly-softly approach doesn’t last for long. It only takes until song two for him to betray his hardcore roots with the brutal ‘Get Better’ and its shouty catharsis ringing out through the tiny room.
The joy of seeing Frank Turner play a small space isn’t just thanks to the thrill of seeing such a big name up close and personal, but because of Turner’s keenness to throw out the big venue rulebook. As well as his dismissal of his usual smart white stage shirt in favour of a tee sporting the giant face of a tiger, he rips up his planned setlist four tracks in. Instead of his planned performance, he brings out deep cuts and old tunes (‘Cowboy Chords’, ‘Worse Things Happen At Sea’, ‘Vital Signs’) finishing the hour-long set with a rousing cover of ‘Somebody To Love’. Proof positive that small is beautiful.