It’s not often we find ourselves in London for anything more than work. It’s something of a rarity then that this week we’re in the capital for not just one gig, but two. Where the first was a loud and heavy affair in the form of Mogwai two days prior, tonight is something altogether more upbeat, as 2,000 people gather in O2’s Shepherds Bush Empire to celebrate both 10 years of Frank Turner’s seminal album Tape Deck Heart, but also 20 years of Xtra Mile, the label that’s supported him throughout and across his career.
As such, tonight’s three supports all come from the Xtra Mile stable in the form of Guise, BERRIES and Pet Needs. Arriving just as BERRIES take to the stage, it’s the first time we’ve seen the grunge trio since the departure of their original drummer. Far from being a noticeable departure, however, the three-piece succeed in filling an impressive large stage thanks to their own brand of angular and off-kilter grunge. It’s a short, sharp set. Seven tracks take in recent singles such as ‘We Are Machines’ and ‘Wall of Noise’, culminating in an impressive outing of ‘Spiral’ which sets the crowd beneath us bouncing. BERRIES’ ascent has already been nothing short of impressive, and now with a debut album under their belts and crowds in the palm of their hand, it’s only going to get faster.
Next up are skate-punks Pet Needs. Another short set sees the four-piece throwing out tracks from across both of their albums; a raucous crowd belting back singles such as ‘Tracey Emin’s Bed’ and ‘Punk isn’t Dead; It’s Just Up for Sale’ as if their lives depended on it.
Having supported Frank Turner on tour last year, it’s clear the band’s reputation as grown alongside their confidence and stage presence, and they’re a fantastic choice for tonight’s main support also, with the likes of ‘Scratch Card’ and ‘Toothpaste’ inciting circle pits and crowd surfers within the crowd below. The recent single ‘Get On the Roof’ closes things out fantastically. Harboring a nostalgic pop-punk vibe it’s pure Tony Hawks soundtrack tackle, and the band leaves the stage guaranteed to have won over anyone who wasn’t familiar with them previously.
Of course, tonight isn’t just about the band’s, it’s about the label that’s looking after them also, and as a result, there’s a handful of guests between bands such as Radio X’s John Kennedy, who’s always been a supporter of both Xtra Mile and the band’s they champion. This said, however, music is, of course, the reason we’re all here, and it doesn’t take long before the tall slender figure of Frank Turner steps out on stage.
As is often the case with album anniversary shows, tonight we’re treated to Tape Deck Heart in its entirety, though not in the order one might expect. ‘Broken Piano’ may not be the opener we’re expecting, but its first full band outing since 2014 is a bold and emotional start. This said, the familiar opening notes of ‘Recovery’ mean usual business is soon resumed and the upbeat optimism so synonymous with Turner’s live shows floods the venue. It’s something that continues throughout, despite, or perhaps in spite of Tape Deck Heart’s less than rosier disposition. Tracks such as ‘Plain Sailing Weather’ and ‘Losing Days’, though harbouring their own quiet optimism on record, feel entirely different when sang back by 2,000 people. It happens with less established album tracks too. The likes of ‘Oh Brother’ and ‘The Fisherking Blues’ taking on new leases of life thanks to the added emotion from the crowd.
A trio of tracks sees Turner close out the Tape Deck Heart portion of the evening. ‘Anymore’, ‘The Way I Tend to be’ and a raucous outing of regular set closer ‘Four Simple Words’ sees Turner introducing his band The Sleeping Souls to the audience, as he so often does. The perfect end to a set that feels as tender as it does celebratory.
From here on out we’re back in single territory as we’re treated to a second set of ten songs from across the band’s career. Indeed, the likes of ‘Non Serviam’ and ‘Haven’t Been Doing So Well’ fitting in just as neatly with more established offerings in the form of ‘Photosynthesis’, ‘Get Better’ and ‘Try This at Home’. It’s a smaller, shorter set that feels perfectly in keeping with the celebratory nature of the evening as a whole. Turner has always had the ability to turn his live shows into a party, and tonight is no exception. A hugely uplifting outing for ‘I Still Believe’ sees Turner joined not just be 2,000 overjoyed voices, but also opening artist Guise, who also happens to be his wife. A beautiful end to a beautiful evening. Proving once again, that it’s impossible to leave a Frank Turner show without a shit-eating grin across your face.