Walking up to Barrowlands on a soaking wet Friday night was like being transported to a different era, but in an uncharming and somewhat depressing way. The façade and interior seem completely unchanged from its state in the Simple Minds music video for Waterfront, complete with unironic flashing neon signs and slightly grimy disco balls. Within, the crowd consisted of what critics often refer to as a “cult following”, hard to define unless seen in person, this consisted of large bearded men in trucker caps, overly-drunk middle-aged women, all punctuated with small groups of awkward and lost-looking young teens. However, looking across the crowd of plaid shirts, old Turner tees and cider stains, it was clear that there was one thing that united this eclectic mix: a genuine excitement and adoration for Frank Turner. This was supported by the slow filling of the venue, with many arriving just in time for the headliner’s set.
However, those late-comers missed out on some truly mood-setting folky support acts. Will Varley was the first, and his simpler set with “Passenger”- like hooks and folksy guitar was a gentler start to the evening. Followed by Skinny Lister, the night quickly turned to the eccentric and bizarre. The six piece folk band performed their Mumford-esque tunes with passion and enthusiasm, riling the crowd to the point that double-bass player, Michael, took to stage-diving, while lead vocals, Lorna, looked on, swigging from what could only be described as an 18th century ceramic pitcher. Indeed, there was something undoubtedly shambolic in their set, in the style of a pirate shindig, reaching its peak with an acapella drunkards’ shanty, whose lyrics even the Glaswegians struggled to understand. Undeniably, however, the crowd were now perfectly warmed up for Turner and his energetic set.
Frank Turner’s set was exactly as you would imagine a Frank Turner set to be: loud, boisterous and irreverent. Backed up by his band, The Sleeping Souls, he artfully blended tracks of his new album, Positive Songs for Negative People, with older classics such as Recovery and The Way I Tend to Be. However, though his musical prowess is hard to deny (at one point he played out a few riffs of Metallica on his electric guitar), there was something equally uncomfortable in his crowd-pleasing “banter”, ordering the crowd at different points to crouch on the (rather sticky) floor and perform star jumps in time to his beat. An urban myth states that the more someone swears, the more honest they are, yet there seemed little sincere about Turner’s “f**ing nice guy” on-stage persona. His regular assertions that Glasgow was his favourite city to play, hung awkwardly next his patronising halting of the crowd, “Actually, this isn’t really a clapping song guys, but thanks anyway”. Despite the condescension (which one can’t help to compare to Bieber’s much-criticised outbreak recently), the crowd were not to be let down, and if there is any commendation of the night, it was the fan in front of me, who spent the entire evening eyes closed and smile fixed; she didn’t miss a word.
Indeed, all eccentricities can surely be forgiven and forgotten in light of this. For if the purpose of music is to bring together anyone and everyone, united with a love for his music and the desire to have a good time, then Turner has succeeded, and utterly so. He presented a night with just enough jumpy tunes and quirky character, that even the grimy venue, confusing performances, and diva sass couldn’t stop the fun-loving atmosphere.