'We had the amazing Frank to ourselves - all 20,000 of us'
Chloe Ravat

12:31 13th February 2014

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Frank Turner has come a long way in recent years. Starting his post-Million Dead solo career playing tiny, cramped pubs and churches, he's crept gradually into the mainstream collective consciousness from his underground beginnings. Slowly and steadily, he's earned his legion of hardcore fans the old-fashioned way with his relentless schedule of shows around the world.

Some have argued that he is selling out with his recent addition of huge arena dates - the decision to play the O2 being the head of the firing line. But, as the curtain drops suddenly to reveal him arms open, guitar slung casually over his shoulder, you can see it's the same old Frank and it really just was a matter of logistics, rather than an ego apparently inflated by the G-force ride to the top.

Opening in typical ebullient style with crowd favourite 'Photosynthesis', it's obvious we're in for a much-anticipated musical trip down Memory Lane, as well as the chance to fall in love with new Tape Deck Heart favourites. And so for the next couple of hours we have Frank to ourselves. All 20,000 of us.

It quickly becomes obvious throughout the course of Turner's set that size seriously doesn't matter, as there was not a soul in the room who didn't seem to be interacting with Frank on some kind of personal level. And it really was a thing to behold. Witnessing 20,000 pairs of arms in the air fist-pumping their way aggressively through 'I Still Believe' creates an emotional stirring in even the most cynical of souls.

'Recovery' was also epic both in terms of pure aural delight and the most exercise anyone has ever had at a music concert. Honestly, a Frank Turner gig is possibly the only ever example of thousands of people willingly star-jumping. It's no secret that Turner's fans are some of the most loyal and devoted out there, and the sheer volume of the arena-full of 'Frank Turner Hard Core' tribesmen and women is probably 70% of the reason that attendees will develop tinnitus in 1-3 years.

The absolute, uninhibited rapture of the crowd was at its most palpable during proper FT classics like 'Peggy Sang the Blues', 'Reasons Not to be an Idiot' and 'If Ever I Stray'. Plus Turner, in a bit of a U-turn from his last London arena gig at Wembley in 2012, even whipped 'I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous' out of retirement, much to the sheer ecstasy of the baying crowd.

That being said, new material must be given a fair airing. And Turner balanced his set perfectly with just the right amount of new music from Tape Deck Heart. An absolute stunner came in the form of 'Broken Piano', which contained an epic drum riff (The Sleeping Souls' Nigel Powell is an excellent drummer and human being). We also heard the brilliantly poignant 'Polaroid Picture', where Frank’s harsh, rasping vocals lent themselves perfectly to the beautiful bittersweet sentiment of the song.

An encore consisting of 'The Ballad of Me and My Friends', 'I Still Believe' and 'Four Simple Words' (replete with Turner's awesome interpretations of diva poses) rounded off what had already been a spectacular set list. Frank Turner show number 1527 was, assuredly, an absolute belter.

Frank Turner played:
Plain Sailing Weather
Peggy Sang the Blues
Losing Days
Try This at Home
Glory Hallelujah
Reasons Not to Be an Idiot
The Way I Tend to Be
I Am Disappeared (Frank solo)
Father's Day
To Take You Home
Wessex Boy
Polaroid Picture
The Road
If Ever I Stray
I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
One Foot Before the Other
Long Live the Queen
Broken Piano
The Ballad of Me and My Friends
I Still Believe
Four Simple Words

Below: 11 exclusive photos of Frank Turner's massive O2 Arena gig

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Photo: Justine Trickett