Frank Turner has come a long way since his days as the front man of England based post-hardcore band, Million Dead. After breaking up in 2005 to a respectable but mainly UK based fan base, Frank Turner embarked on a solo career. He has since released 6 full length albums alongside his backing band known as The Sleeping Souls, a biography, and has notched 2,031 live shows, including gigs at some of the world’s largest festivals. One of the most unique aspects, of many, regarding Frank Turner is his passion for performing live and the relationship he shares with his fans. He is constantly on the road, averaging nearly 200 shows a year, and he never ceases to bring the same passion to each show. His journey while gaining popularity worldwide, especially within the United States, has been based on a grassroots effort most of the time. One could argue that word of mouth has been one of Frank Turner’s best friends up to this point in his career, and its power was never more evident than at his nearly full arena appearance last week at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.
“We had one song on the radio for a little while or whatever, but that’s not why you are here”, Frank Turner told the roughly 5,000 fans at BU’s Agganis Arena last Saturday night. That statement, while coming from Turner himself, couldn’t be more true. Frank Turner has a cult-like fan base, stemming from his punk days with Million Dead. They travel the world to see him, but yet he continues to add first-timers with each and every show. There is no secret recipe to his growing popularity besides his deep lyrics that pull you in and his powerful live persona that grabs you, making it impossible not to tell your friends about it afterward.
With Boston being the last US date in support of Positive Songs For Negative People as well as his largest US show to date, Frank Turner ripped through a 21 song career spanning setlist as part of an obviously emotional night for the English rocker. No two setlists are ever the same, and among the many highlights of the night included the “fan” selected segment in which Frank Turner played one of his most rarely performed songs in “Redemption”. When Frank Turner says he listens to fan requests, he means it. In fact, he (or someone close to him) also responds to fans’ personal emails. The tightly knit relationship between Turner and his fans are an integral part of his success and make it possible for him to reach his 2,031st show and counting.
It hasn’t all been peachy during Frank Turner’s nearly 12 year solo career. He first came under fire from punk purists after his fourth studio album, England Keep My Bones, charted, the first time ever. Around that same time, he performed at Wembley Arena to a crowd of roughly 10,000, calling on those same purists to labeled him a “sell out”. An always outspoken critic of politics, Turner was almost torch mobbed out of music after a 2012 Guardian blog revealed Turner to be “right-winged”. The once teenage anarchist was now a conservative? Punk fans were appalled and angered. He would later tell the Guardian that he received up to 100 death threats a day. Turns out that the more properly deemed egalitarian and libertarian Turner bit himself in the tail by being so open and honest about his political views. With growing popularity, Turner has and will continue to walk a tightrope with his fans and the media given the brutally honest nature of his lyrics and his opinionated persona.
With the rise of Donald Trump, those who sent Turner hate mail years ago may now want to eat their words. Once thought to be conservative, right-winged, and sympathetic to the BNP (for which one could find numerous similarities to the Trump regime), has now proved he couldn’t be further from those ideals. Ever since his Presidential bid was announced, Frank Turner has been vehemently opposed to Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and subsequent reign. Turner wrote his most recent single, “The Sand In The Gears”, as a response to the inauguration of Trump. Rather than rant and rave about politics at his live shows, for which Turner believes his fans don’t pay to see, the song serves as an adequate platform for him to get his point across nonetheless. The song is just another example of Frank Tuner’s excellent, witty, and brutally honest songwriting capabilities, one of the aspects that has made him so successful throughout his career. Although it has got him in trouble in the past, Turner’s outspoken personality is something loved by most, if not all, of his fans. Don’t sit down and don’t shut up Frank Turner. And definitely, do not grown up.