Frank Turner, Jacob Golden, and Joshua EnglishEdit this event
- Spitz, Poplar »
The Spitz may be an unobtrusive venue situated almost exactly at the spot where East London stops being a geographical location and becomes shorthand for a particular style of haircut, but hosting the absurdly-titled Quality Softcore 2k7 tour it feels like magnetic north, the only place on the planet that matters, if only for a few hours. Headlined by Frank Turner, the jaunt is a purely acoustic affair featuring singers from various hardcore bands who are eschewing the headwalking and two-stepping for something a little more sedate. Impressively, however, that’s not to say that the atmosphere is any less electric or passionate than at a punk gig.
Joshua English kicks off the evening with a truncated set of songs about, well, growing up and the like. While thousands of singer-songwriters around the world are essentially doing the same shtick, English’s songwriting talents bleed through his performance, and while it’s always hard to open a gig such as this, he acquits himself well.
Surprise of the evening (and probably month) comes in the form of Jacob Golden. Fresh-faced and blinking like a child found in a wardrobe, he doesn’t even open his mouth that wide to sing and yet the most amazing sounds come out. He’s blessed with a voice that borders on the ethereal, and the intricacies of his delicate songwriting shine through, buoyed endlessly by the strength of his vocals. His songs are gossamer-thin snapshots, rendered in such personal terms that as he closes his eyes and hunches over the mic it’s hard not to feel like an intruder on his private thoughts. But, then again, that’s the mark of a great artist, and this guy could be utterly massive – and rightly so.
But Jonah Matranga’s all about the sing-alongs, the unity and the combined passion of everyone in the room. While the previous performers were handicapped slightly by the fact that no one seemed to know the words, in contrast the majority of Matranga’s songs are bellowed back at him with the force of a gale. Songs from his days in Far and Gratitude are presented to an extremely receptive audience, whose collective eyes are turned upwards at the diminutive figure clutching a guitar and who sing almost every word back at him. He’s adept not only at turning the crowd’s voice into one, but the way he conducts himself on stage is truly warming to behold; rarely will you find a more impassioned musician, and even rarer still one who can represent themselves accurately and sensitively without sounding embarrassing. Tonight, Jonah did just that by playing a set of very good songs, very well. And there’s nothing more you can ask, is there?
Minutes later, Frank is sitting on a stool, guitar in one hand, whisky in the other, looking at a sold-out crowd. “I’m going to start with a new song tonight,” he says. ”Because I feel like it, and I can.” We clap, cheer and smile, because Frank can do whatever he wants, and we wouldn’t be here if he’d followed some other template of how to be a musician. So tonight is the triumphant home-from-homecoming of a man who’s been around a fair bit and appears to be finally coming to terms with being a successful singer-songwriter. While it’s doubtless that he’s aided by the presence of an audience comprising various friendly faces, his skill as a performer is growing exponentially. And while there’s something a little predictable about shouting “Thatcher fucked the kids!” as loudly as you can, it simply doesn’t matter – Frank’s songs have always been his greatest weapon, and by taking the innermost thoughts of those that love his music and somehow putting them into song, it acts almost as a release, and so people do sing and shout and yell and hum and whisper along to his songs without a care in the world.
His new material sounded fresh and vibrant, especially when songs that could be tender and graceful are played with the fervour and sheer naked violence as befits Frank. And that’s why he’s so beloved, because he takes simple, raw feelings and focalises them through his own dark sense of humour and personal thoughts, that’s why we get songs as accomplished as ‘The Real Damage’ or ‘Nashville Tennessee’. More often than not, the crowd drowns him out, and the uplifting roar that greets that bit _ in _‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’ is startling, in the best way possible. He’s engaging and funny, and can switch from spitting bullets during ‘Worst Things Happen At Sea’ (one audience member unsuccessfully manages to dodge a volley of sputum and yet stands in the same place for the rest of the set, and if that’s not as glowing a compliment, that someone’s willing to be showered in gob to be close to Frank, then I don’t know what is) to a wonderful ramble through ‘I Don’t Care What You Did On Your Gap Year’, such is his range. And to close we get ‘Dancing Queen’ with the other performers on backing vocals, which makes everyone just happy they were here.
DiS’s throat still hurts.