From the shivers-down-the-spine opener, I Am Disappeared, to a decisive closing double bill of Photosynthesis and Dan's Song, Frank Turner held The Hexagon in the palm of his hand last night. Having seen the man play everywhere from 'toilet circuit touring stops' to 'soulness corporate circus tops' in past years, Frank in 2012, backed by his hyperactive band, The Sleeping Souls, has evolved into a consummate showman. It's a rare night when this guy gives any less than 100%. The crowd, a mix of teens, older music fans and parents accompanying younger folk, go mental from the off; Frank's vocals near-drowned-out at points by singing from his word-perfect fans.
Reasons Not To Be An Idiot had fists in the air; a beefed up live version of Long Live The Queen was rocking yet heartfelt, and I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous caused some girls on the barrier in front of me to - to put it politely - completely lose their marbles. For Glory Hallelujiah, the crowd were a congregation, singing in harmony the refrain, 'there is no god... we're all in this together'. That's what the evening was all about, ditching the allegiances, the cliques and the cool, joining Frank and the Souls, for an evening of songs, singing, dancing and rejoicing in being alive.
New song Recovery and wonderfully-titled ballad Where For Art Thou Gene Simmons?, go down well, and tease fans with hints of what's to come on
the next record. Four Simple Words sparked off a melee of dancing, with even the seating fans leaping up for a jig.
There were some added extras, too, with Reading's favourite singer-songwriter, Ben Marwood, popping up briefly for a frantic harmonica solo on I Still Believe, and drummer Nigel putting the much-maligned recorder back into its rightful place in rock'n'roll with an impressively tuneful solo on Rivers.
As the singalongs reached yelling point, and the sweat dripped from the ceiling, the closing double bill, the seize-the-day anthems Eulogy, Photosynthesis and Dan's Song, were just the tonic to send us stumbling out into the welcoming cool air of the evening, feeling very, very much alive.
First support came from the frankly brilliant Cheltenham folk-country-punksters Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun, who have been bubbling around on the scene for a while now and fully deserve to break through by converting some of Frank's fans. Former Avail frontman Tim Barry took a solo spot with his down-to-earth brand of Virginian folk music, clambering out into the crowd for his first song - a riveting ditty about his travels stowed away on trans-America trains - winning over the crowd armed only with his words, his passion and his acoustic guitar.