As he celebrates ten years as a solo artist, Frank Turner has achieved quite a lot in recent years. From successful albums to festival-stealing sets to playing arenas, Turner and his Sleeping Soul bandmates have done more than many expected. Nevertheless, his current UK run sees him retreating back to the clubs and academies that Turner endlessly played on his way up the ladder. Tonight he’s playing his favourite UK venue for the second night running.
Hand-picked by Turner himself, opening support Will Varley proves to be witty with his acoustic stylings. Through his black comedy lyrics based on his father’s genitals, Simon Cowell, and cats (‘Talking Cat Blues’), Varley is charismatic. Although he’s equally earnest in stripped-back, folk-led style as ‘King for King’ and ‘We Don’t Believe You’ show. (3/5)
Folk-punk sextet Skinny Lister quickly make their mark with their Strummer-esque sound; raw, upbeat and delivered with subtle swagger. Whereas ‘Seventeen Summers’ shows a more sincere, retrospective approach in their arsenal. The London-based band make good use of their time by leaving the talk to a minimum and letting their songs do the talking. ‘This is War’ and ‘Rollin’ Over’ are rousing and receive the right response from the crowd. All in all Skinny Lister are, for the most part, bright, upbeat and jolly. However with that being said, at times, their style comes off as a big knees up down your local pub. (3.5/5)
With six studio albums and several EP’s to his name, Frank Turner has built a stellar catalogue of songs over the past decade and tonight is a celebration of his songwriting talent. Opening with ‘Eulogy’, Turner and The Sleeping Souls quickly deliver a plethora of crowd pleasers; ‘The Next Storm’, ‘Try This at Home’, ‘Peggy Sang the Blues’ and ‘Losing Days’.
As always, Turner comes as warm and gracious, repeatedly declaring Rock City as the UK’s best venue. Whilst in between songs, he jokes with guitarist Ben Lloyd and bassist Tarrant Anderson splitting the crowd into two and giving each member a team for the remainder of the night. The explosive ‘Josephine’ is preceded by Turner briefly paying tribute to Iron Maiden.
Cuts from Turner’s latest album, ‘Positive Songs For Negative People’, prop up throughout and highlight his more rounded, fuller sound as ‘Demons’ and ‘Polaroid Picture’ show.
At the halfway point, the Sleeping Souls depart to allow Turner to return to his solo roots. Whilst a smattering of talking from the sold-out crowd try to distract, Turner is more than capable of keeping the audience’s attention, something which he has done for a decade. Once his bandmates re-join him on stage, we’re delivered a classic one-two punch with ‘Wessex Boy’ and ‘Photosynthesis’ with the latter invariably demanding crowd participation. However, this sold-out room is more than willing to comply.
For the remainder of the night, the atmosphere is one of unison. As Turner delivers his “atheist gospel” ‘Glory Hallelujah’, followed by the rousing ‘Reasons Not to Be an Idiot’, the heartfelt ‘Mittens’ and the star jump-led ‘Recovery’, you suddenly realise the wealth of songs Turner has in his arsenal.
By the time we reach the end of the main portion of the show with song 26 ‘If Ever I Stray’, the show is in celebration mode, however, the encore begins with the sullen ‘Song for Josh’, a poignant, sombre number that is mesmerizing and has all eyes on Turner alone. Nevertheless a hat-trick of some of Turner’s best work; ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’, ‘I Still Believe’ and ‘Four Simple Words’ end this joyous evening on a high.
Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls may have lost some admirers in recent years, but on tonight’s evidence, they’re still going strong with a 30-song set that serves as a commemoration of everything they’ve done so far. Turner has the ability to be honest and sincere. Deep down he’s a music fan who’s living out his dream of playing songs that connect and resonate with people. (5/5)
Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)