Award-winning folk/rock troubadour, occasional thrash metal screamer and human relations analyser Frank Turner returned to perform in Lancaster for the first time in seven years this week.
The Sunday night performance at the 650 capacity Lancaster Town Hall was a result of Frank’s sister and Lancaster resident Joanna Young “twisting his arm” to play a benefit gig for the Morecambe Bay Food Bank and Lancaster Boys and Girls Club.
Jo is chair of trustees for both charities, and proceeds from the gig - which sold out in a matter of minutes - and the collection buckets on the night, are likely to have raised thousands of pounds for each cause.
I caught up with both Frank and Jo in the depths of Lancaster Town Hall for a chat prior to the show, and found out that one of Frank’s first ever gigs was Jo’s 16th birthday - he was twelve.
He also played at her wedding, throwing in a cover of Celine Dion (this wasn’t off the record, the song was Think Twice) at Jo’s insistence.
So it’s quite evident that big sister can pull little brother’s guitar strings - and on this occasion she’s managed to do it for two very worthy causes.
Frank said: “It’s great to be doing this gig.
“As someone with some sort of public profile, so much of my career is based around ‘look at me’ so it’s nice to do something that puts something else at the forefront of it.
“This one is special because of the family side of things.
“I’ve been aware that Jo’s been working with the food bank after moving up north - I’d have expected nothing less from her!
“It’s not for me to decide how people use their platforms or their voice, and it’s not necessarily right that celebrities assume political and economic expertise.
“But what I can do is use my voice to highlight certain things and point people in that direction.
“We come from a very comfortable middle class background, but the older I get it seems to me that if we can start everyone on a level playing field, the issues that we have would be less prolific.
“Anything that you can do to extend a hand to children has got to be a good thing.”
Frank said the Lancaster show was one of five he had done for charitable causes - including one for the Music Venue Trust - over the last few weeks.
Joanna joined Frank onstage later that night, explaining more about both the food bank and the boys and girls club, and the crucial role they play within the Lancaster district community.
This was met by huge cheers, and the few boos, by the sound of things, were aimed at the need for food banks in the first place.
The evening started with support from flamboyant Mancunian Felix Hagan, and Morecambe’s own Joe McCorriston, who both engaged the crowd with their original sounds.
Joe was gracious and confident on stage, tackling personal issues in his lyrics, and wearing his heart on his guitar strap.
He’s now performing a string of university shows across the country.
Turner ignited the crowd as soon as he stepped on stage.
His confidence, charisma, audience inclusion and lyrical prowess is unifying stuff.
He raced through tracks from his seven solo albums with barely a pause for breath, playing new tracks from his latest album Songbook back to back with “hits” like I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous, Love Ire And Song, Long Live The Queen, I Still Believe, If Ever I Stray, Recovery, Polaroid Picture and others.
His new track 1933 was particular poignant: “But I don’t know what’s going on anymore, the world outside is burning with a brand new light, but it isn’t one that makes me feel warm...”
The rarely played but extremely well received To Take You Home was great to hear live too.
The audience sang along to most of the set, couples cuddled and swayed, friends hi-fived, and everyone danced, sang and stomped along to his “encore” songs - Queen’s Somebody To Love, and his own singalong crowd pleaser Photosyhthesis.
Proof if you need it that one individual can easily rival the big band sound entirely on their own.
The team behind Kendal Calling ensured the evening’s sound and tech were on point, and the effect was that each note was clear no matter where you stood in the room.
Lancaster Brewery provided the refreshment, and those lucky enough to get a ticket for this show left the venue extremely satisfied.
Lancaster Town Hall is an excellent, remarkably underused venue, and there’s be no reason why it should not be used for similar types of events in the future.
All in all a great night in a great venue with great performances for a great cause.