For the opening night of his latest UK tour Frank Turner packed out Leas Cliff Hall for his first gig in Folkestone. Playing a solo tour, with no Sleeping Souls for the "first time in years", Frank brought only a few guitars but some very special guests to enhance the evening. Playing gig number two-thousand-four-hundred-and-sixty-two, Turner was still as intense and as impassioned as ever as he commanded the stage.
Joining Frank as support was Two Cow Garage's Micah Schnabel. He was on good form, engaging in plenty of interaction with the gathering audience. He repeatedly wished that he could Facetime his Dad to show him where he was and what he was doing; "I don't normally get to play to this many people" he commented. Micah played out some provocative tracks including 'Remain Silent' and 'Your New Norman Rockwell' as well as thought-provoking tracks 'Emergency Room' and 'The Interview', a song he had written after Googling tips on how to overcome writers' block. Dressed in a jaunty flat cap, black jacket, black jeans, wearing diamante studded black rimmed glasses and playing a guitar with 'Art Or Die' painted on the side, it was possibly his band's track, 'Let The Boys Be Girls', that was the highlight of his set. The more obvious song with a more immediate arrangement connected with a crowd largely unfamiliar with his work.
Micah was the filler in a Turner family sandwich. Ahead of him there had been a rather special performance by the self-confessed "lucky b***h" Jessica Guise, aka Mrs Frank Turner. The Former EastEnders actress, who wed Frank Turner last year, took to the stage of Leas Cliff Hall to get the night off to a great start. Jess, also playing solo without her band Guise, was probably wishing for slightly better timing. Jess had just learnt that she had become an aunt as her sister had given birth to a daughter, Amelia, prior to her taking the stage. Positively, it possibly fuelled her adrenalin still further.
Jess Guise opened and closed with her set with her and her band's first two singles from this year; February's 'The Fun Part' opened the night and her latest single 'Brother In Arms' closed out her set. The melodic and harmonious 'The Fun Part' showcased the delicacy and tenderness that characterises Jessica's vocal. The size of the venue and the chatter among some of the arriving audience, however, did not necessarily suit Jess Guise. A more intimate setting, with a quieter crowd who were focused on her would've been a better environment, I would imagine. Jess was in good spirits though and in a jovial mood. She commented that she'd wanted to call the tour 'Frank turner's Big Double Date' instead of 'Frank Turner's UK Tour' but "I was vetoed", and that she had a full band performance at The Bedford in Balham coming up, "That's near Kent, right?"
Guise showed no sign of nerves as she performed solo, heading up the roster and hoping to "pop her merch cherry". She performed another track from her forthcoming EP (her first in five years), 'Too Far Gone', that captured the range in her vocal before signing off and thanking everyone, including Frank. Her Folk songs, imparted with a soft and gentle nuanced lilt, clearly showed comparisons with Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks and why it shouldn't be too long before she headlines such an evening.
Mr Turner, taking his first steps onto a Folkestone stage, wasn't exactly impatient but was in no mood for tardiness as he rattled through a set punctuated with great anecdotes, passion a plenty and humour besides. Turner ran through his set, initially, in chronological order, opening with 'The Ballad Of Me & My Friends' and 'I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous', from 2006 and 2007 respectively. It was an interesting way of hearing the change in Frank's focus and the change in his writing especially when you heard him talking, and then singing about 'Sister Rosetta' and 'The Lioness' from his 2019 'No Man's Land' Album. These two tracks, followed by the love letter to his now wife Jess, 'There She Is' as well as the track that preceded them, 'Be More Kind', show Turner at his reflective best.
The power and passion for which Frank Turner is more readily associated were in no way absent on the South-Coast of Kent. His closing quartet of songs alone sounded just as charged up, confrontational and spirited as ever. 'Get Better' with its pounding beat, Punk posturing and vital message of hope, the brilliant narrative of 'Recovery', the call to arms of 'I Still Believe' and finally the reminiscence and reflection of 'Polaroid Picture' closed out a well-crafted set on a very high note.
A trio of varying performances lit up Leas Cliff Hall in different ways during an evening that not only reinforced Frank Turner's reputation as one of the best live performers but also introduced his wife Jessica Guise as 'one to watch' for the future.