PJ Bond

PJ Bond


These kinds of nights are usually a rarity from artists that have reached the stellar heights of Frank Turner. Not for him, this was a welcome return to the Night and Day Café, following his previous gig in January. There is no going through the motions and familiarity certainly doesn’t breed contempt tonight as he rattles through 22 songs; old and new ones, and some, if they aren’t already, soon to be favourites.

He is joined by the American singer-songwriter and label mate PJ Bond who has been supporting Turner on a number of his recent warm up dates. He’s no stranger to these parts either, having played a gig in July at the Star and Garter.

Fans of Wilco and Ryan Adams will find a great deal to like about PJ. So too those who like passionate lyrics and songs with a pop sensibility. He features selections from his latest record Where Were You? and from his previous album Brother Bones/Baby Bones. For a recent convert to his music like myself, it’s great to find that there’s much to discover from his back catalogue.

He starts with ‘Everglades’, the opener of his new album, which is a perfect introduction to the work of Bond, given its hook-laden sound and introspective lyrics.

The road and a sense of restlessness comes through from his music and ‘Broad Street’, written about his time living in Philadelphia highlights this perfectly. ‘Savannah’, an older tune sounds great with a more stripped back arrangement than on the record. PJ even has time to throw in a joke. Sadly my recollection of jokes is bad at the best of times to be able to relay it here. I liked it, so too the audience. Although he has no reason to worry about the jokes falling flat, as he has already won over a substantial part of the audience, who are appreciative of his musical talents. He goes out with a bang with ‘Oh No’, which needs the audience to sing along to. This they are more than willing to do, it is a perfect way of limbering up for what was to follow.

By the time Frank Turner comes on stage, the crowd has already been warmed up in every sense of the word. The tightly packed venue is rammed with people clamouring to see their hero play gig number 1,710, which he announced by way of introduction. Given the prodigious touring of Turner, I needed to check whether that was in the last year alone. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find out if it was. He had already played a short set at HMV earlier in the day, illustrating his prodigious work ethic.

Frank Turner

Frank Turner

He opens up with the gentle and fragile ‘The Angel Islington’ which is also the opener on his new album. ‘Getting Better’, another new song follows soon after and that set the tone for the rest of the night. The crowd need no invitation to passionately sing their hearts out.  It is impressive to witness an audience who know the words to a song that has only been released the previous Friday.  The sing-alongs barely relent all evening and on ‘If I Stray’, the intensity seems to ramp up even more.  It is great to see and be part of.

‘It’s really fucking warm up here,’ Turner announces before taking a swig of the first of many well-earned beers. That wasn’t a signal that he was feeling the pace or whether that proceedings would be turned down a notch either, he ploughs on at the same break neck speed as before.

Even in the stripped down nature of an acoustic set, these songs don’t lose their anthemic quality. Sometimes you go to gigs of this type and enjoy the new arrangements, but long to hear them played with the full band. That isn’t the case tonight; these arrangements sit well alongside the more expansive versions. In any case the audience act as the perfect backing band, to notice the missing elements.

The communal singing was put on hold for ‘Song For Josh’, the heartfelt lament for Turner’s friend Josh Burdette, who committed suicide. There is an attentiveness and respectful silence from the crowd that is really touching.  Instead of singing back every word, the audience absorb them instead. It is a beautiful moment.

Another new song ‘Silent Key’, loses none of it’s wonder from the record, despite being stripped of the beautifully ethereal vocals of Esmé’ Patterson. The BBC-Wimbledon-montage-waiting-to-happen ‘Love Forty Dow’n appears to be a tough one to play, not that we notice while Turner is in full flow. He let it be known that was the case at the end.

Gigs of this style often hinge on how the crowd react or respond, the audience are passionately involved from the off, it is only on ‘Balthazar, Impresario’, that there is some chatting that proves distracting. Turner put them in their place. ‘Do let me know if my twanging is interrupting your conversation,’ he asked mid-song. The members of the audience who were hanging off every word appreciated this.

The intensity of the guitar playing and no doubt the searing heat of the venue, saw the first string of the night to snap when he plays ‘The Road’, by the end of the song the string on the replacement guitar snapped too. Despite these issues, he manages to deliver a great version of this tune. Again the crowd fills in the gaps, when the accompanying guitar wasn’t functioning.


Frank Turner

Before he finishes the night, he pays tribute to his band. Even though they aren’t here; they are cheered energetically. He also singles out the audience, and those running the venue. There is a sincerity to everything that Turner does and this certainly comes across when offered his best wishes.

He was certainly deserving of the time-honoured tradition of disappearing back stage and returning to do an encore. Given that he’d been up on stage for over an hour in such intense heat, he certainly deserved a quick breather outside. Instead he chooses to dispense with the falseness of this action and stay on stage to deservedly milk the applause. The request for one more song, soon became five. He started off his ‘encore’ with ‘Recovery’, which was beautifully observed.

Given the heat and the humidity the guitar strings where now snapping with each song. It was the dexterity of Turner and the diligence of his roadie in bringing out replacement guitars kept the songs ticking along.  A fluffed lyric on the first line of ‘The Next Storm’ was forgiven; it was his only misstep of the night. He didn’t need to start again, he could have carried on and the audience would have seen him home.

He closes the night with the Queen cover of ‘Somebody To Love’, which brings about rapturous cheers. Turner jokes that the reaction was better than for his own tunes. It is an excellently observed cover and it is last chance for the audience to muster one last rousing sing along.

Every generation deserves a performer like Turner and those that came out to witness him are appreciative of his talents. This was the hottest ticket in town tonight and those lucky to be present were rewarded with two sets of individual brilliance. It was the type of night that makes you pick up a guitar and form a band. It was that good. This was brilliant, life affirming stuff from start to finish.

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