thu 17/10/2019

Frank Turner, King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow review - songs about love, friendship and putting the world to rights | reviews, news & interviews

Frank Turner, King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow review - songs about love, friendship and putting the world to rights

Frank Turner, King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow review - songs about love, friendship and putting the world to rights

Intimate solo show from arena-filling songwriter with a new album on the way

Turner returns to King Tut's Hut

“When I was a small boy growing up in the south of England,” says Frank Turner - pausing just long enough for the anticipated good-natured jeering from the Scottish crowd - “I dreamed of playing the legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut.”

It may sound disingenuous - it’s certainly not the first time that Turner, who barely six months ago sold almost 10 times as many tickets to sell out Glasgow’s O2 Academy, has played the city’s most storied venue - but the hollers in response are of a crowd who are in on the joke. This hastily-arranged stop filling in for a cancelled festival date is a rare chance to catch the hard-working singer-songwriter (now on live show number 2,362 and still keeping count) playing acoustic to 300 people, and the atmosphere is as much that of a campfire singalong as it is a rock show.

Set opener “Don’t Worry” - the handclap-heavy, predominantly acoustic ode to positive thinking and companionship in the face of anxiety that kicks off last year’s Be More Kind - kicks off a raucous sing-song response from the crowd that barely lets up for the next hour and a half. It’s an atmosphere that turns tear-jerkers like “I Am Disappeared” and a cover of Frightened Rabbit’s “Head Rolls Off” into communal, joyful catharsis, and adds sufficient bulk to heavier songs like “1933” that it’s just about possible to not miss Turner’s long-time backing band, the Sleeping Souls.

Alongside the crowdpleasers comes the chance to hear some new material. Turner's forthcoming album, No Man’s Land, is a collection of songs inspired by the lives of 13 women “previously overlooked by history” including Egyptian feminist activist Huda Sha’arawi, Jinny Bingham, a 17th century Camden landlady accused of witchcraft, and Turner’s own mum. The project received a mixed response when it was launched last week from those who found it crass and patronising, although an accompanying podcast series - which on its first episode featured musician Emily Barker and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Nwaka Onwusa in a discussion about the life and work of rhythm and blues trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe - shines more light on the songwriter’s motivations and allows him to better explore the life stories that have inspired the new material.

“After years of saying I was never going to do a concept album, I went back on my word,” says Turner, introducing first single “Sister Rosetta”. It’s a catchy song about the “godmother of rock and roll” that becomes more interesting with repeated listens, when you realise some of her own guitar licks have been incorporated into the melody. A research-heavy second new song, about 19th century vaudeville singer Dora Hand, strays a little too far into history documentary territory, but is rescued by a chorus containing the line “doff your caps, boys” and what is apparently on the recorded version a bona fide guitar solo - attempted on acoustic to much cheering and a “solid four out of ten” verdict from Turner.

Formalities out of the way, the rest of the night is a celebration of songs about love (“The Way I Tend To Be”, “There She Is”), friendship (“St Christopher Is Coming Home”, “The Ballad of Me and My Friends”) and putting the world to rights over two pints and three chords (“Be More Kind”, “Get Better”) - via an impulsive cover of “Living On a Prayer”. “This is usually the part of the set where if people aren’t singing along I try to gee them up, but I don’t think I have to tonight,” says Turner ahead of the ridiculously catchy world-bettering anthem “Little Changes” - but you can barely hear him over 300 voices singing in unison.

Lisa-Marie Ferla's website

Below: hear "Sister Rosetta" from new album No Man's Land

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