I could simply write that the gig was incredible from start to finish, that it was near on flawless (I say “near on” because try as I might, I can’t see fault in it from my current vantage point although I may at a later date) and that it was the best gig I have been to (to date), but I think it’s better to expand slightly on that.
Opening act Beans On Toast was clearly struck by a laughable mix of being absolutely overwhelmed and not particularly giving a damn as long as he got to play. Towards the start of his set he mentions how the majority think that small gigs are better as they’re more intimate – well, he manages to disprove this logic. There’s something almost spectacular about the music of two people filling a room so vast – especially due to the fact that he treats it just like a small gig. The majority of the set is chosen by the audience, giving the crowd tow topics between songs and getting everyone to shout out which they want in turn – you know, England versus America, or iPhones versus blowjobs. I’ve seen small pop-punk sort of bands take photos of every show they play and yes, in a way, that’s nice to feel like the gig is quite personal to those on stage, but at the same time, you know they’re gaining something from it. The way Beans On Toast played his show really made the night feel like it wasn’t going to be “just another arena gig”.
Beans on Toast put on an incredible show, but we can’t ignore this guy’s brutal talent – and I think the word “brutal” describes it perfectly. Although the word itself sounds rather gruesome, his direct and not-giving-a-damn attitude to politics and life creates quirky and original yet accessible lyrics, setting his music aside from what is commonly accepted in this age. It’s not like he chooses particularly crude lines either, but his full on attitude to unusual topics (the moon, for example) is something that there is definitely not enough of in the current music scene.
The second support should provide the ideal transition between the opening and main act, as Flogging Moll most definitely do. For some reason, my first (and main) though throughout their set was simply “this is real music.” So many acts nowadays (and believe me, I’m not just referring to dupstep artists when I say this) simply use heavy amounts of backing music to cover the instruments they layer in studios. Now, seeing as this is a show full of country music, you’d expect (rightly so) that it’s a given that no music will be added that isn’t live. But, bloody hell, the seven members of Flogging Molly almost struggle to fit on stage and every single member is so tight, too.
The band are probably most famous for (to those who don’t know them) the song of theirs which features on the P.S. I Love You soundtrack, If I Ever Leave This World Alive. For some reason, I found it phenomenal how similar the live and recorded versions sounded – perhaps it says something about popular music when that becomes a rarity and not the norm. These guys come on stage and have a bloody good time of it though, and the lively, energetic tunes suit everyone who couldn’t get into the slower paced opening act. And even those who don’t feel like getting up on their feet can’t deny the talent that radiates off a band who’ve clearly put so much thought into not only every song, but every aspect of their live show.
Frank Turner comes on stage and introduces the show as the 1,523rd he’s ever played, and from that moment, you can tell that every single one has meant a lot to him. Opening with Photosynthesis (of course) there is no doubt in my mind that anything he could perform would be a show, as the crowd don’t even need to told to sit down (if you’ve never seen one of his lives shows, I strongly suggest you either change that, or at least watch his Reading and Leeds show from last year online). He doesn’t even pause at the end of the opener before bursting straight into Plain Sailing Weather – could you ask for a better start to a main act?
Throughout the set, there are occasional interruptions to include appropriate anecdotes, adding a little depth to the songs. Frank made it clear from the start that he wanted his music to be accessible to anyone and everyone (hence the big venue) and somehow adding the background made the show feel a little more special. Another point which added to this was the fact that he referred to previous gigs in Nottingham, and changed the lyrics to suit the city and local venues. As well as making the gig personal, he brought the room to life, and by the end had even those in seats on their feet and jumping. It would be easy to get lost in your own ego on a stage that big, but no one on stage does. Frank is most definitely down to earth, and the appreciation he has for his band, the audience, and anyone and everyone who made the gig possible is rather overwhelming.
The setlist featured a fairly even mix of songs over the years, and if nothing else does, I think that shows that over the years his talent has remained consistently prominent. Recent singles such as Polaroid Picture are mixed in with older tracks such as Journey of the Magi and The Ballad of Me and My Friends. Before playing the latter, he and the band re-enter the stage after an overwhelming encore, and he explains that he’d done some working out numbers (like you need another indication that he genuinely cared about each and every person in the room) and he’d discovered that that night would be the second biggest headline date he’d played (Wembley being the biggest). He also explained that he had promised he would never play this song again, and you could almost see the ripple of excitement pass through the crowd, guessing which it would be. Safe to say, they were not disappointed.