By Lisa Harris
Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls
23rd November 2012, Wolverhampton Civic
Sporting a dashing Movember tash, Frank Turner continued his November/December tour in style last night at the sold out concert at Wolverhampton Civic.
For those of you who don’t know (and a worrying number of you don’t), Frank Turner is an upcoming artist whose talents have earned him two sold out tours, stages at Reading and Leeds festivals and acclaim from critics for both his live and studio work. His subtle charm and down-to-earth lyrics inspire his fans who radically range in age, whereas his modesty seems to have kept him from seeking front page fame. His passion it seems is not for making money or hitting the papers but for touring and his expertise in this area is obvious; never have I been so entertained by an artist. His commitment goes so far as his decision not to buy a house as yet as he is always on the road; he is technically of no fixed abode. For someone so talented, Turner has remained curiously below the radar and I, for one, wanted to put the word out there that Frank Turner is an act not to be missed.
Having been crushed, battered and bruised last night, and still suffering with ringing in my ears, the only thing I can say is: it was definitely worth it. I have seen a range of bands live from the boybands of my youth to the heavy metal of my early twenties and nothing has compared to the genius of Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls.
The venue, for those of you who have not been, looks a little like your old school hall and the simplicity of the setting suited Turner’s humble modesty and the straight-forward nature of his music. The stage, clad merely with a Frank Turner flag at the back, is filled not with lights nor pyrotechnics nor puppets or moving staging. It is filled with music. It seemed fitting that a crowd screaming the lyrics “’Cos love is free and life is cheap/and as long as I’ve got me a place to sleep/some clothes on my back and some food to eat/ then I can’t ask for anything more,” from the inspirational and heart-warming ‘If Ever I stray’ or grooving to the hit-single ‘Peggy Sang the Blues’, should do so in a setting that rang true to the motivational lyrics with their focus on what is important and essential in life: living and happiness.
From the moment he stood on stage, Turner had his audience captivated. The hall suddenly transformed into a sea of bobbing heads and pointing fingers as they were bombarded with song after song, sung with precision, passion and unremitting vigour. They screamed, they shouted, they danced, they jumped … and the hall was filled not with the sound of the band, but with the sound of 3,000 fans who knew every lyric, every note, every chord. It was intoxicating.
Turner’s music is stunning and truthful; it speaks to the soul. And therein lies Turner’s individuality; he connects with the hearts of millions. Turner’s refreshing outlook displays his neat ability to focus on the essentials in life and his determination not to forget hid routes makes him an extremely pleasant character who is easy to connect with. As seen in the opening track ‘Eulogy’ in his fourth studio album ‘England Keep My Bones’ (which reached number twelve), his insistence on the importance of action over passivity is inspiring; Turner is no man to mince his words. I defy anyone to contradict his simple outlook on life.
Coupling nicely with his sound is his stage presence: he is electric. The most surprising thing about him is that he does not see the need to fill time with unnecessary chatter; you know that when you’re going to see Frank Turner you will get music and not meaningless prattle. The second noteworthy thing is his ability to remain on key, on time and in complete harmony with The Sleeping Souls. For those of you used to the live music scene, this is no easy feat; Turner’s genius lays in his ability to surprise with clarity of voice, (I’d wager!) pitch-perfect singing and an infectious raw passion. The lack of distracting ploys as you’d see with other bands is also refreshing; the audience are stunned by the performance of the band and the beauty of the music. The whole performance was fresh, straightforward and professional; it is clear that Turner and the band understand his appeal as a straight-talking artist and that gimmicks would distract from the message of his lyrics.
Frank Turner can’t be reviewed without the consideration of his band, The Sleeping Souls (who apparently named themselves after a lyric from “I Am Disappeared”). They consist of: the mighty Ben Lloyd (guitar, harmonica, mandolin); Tarrant Anderson (bass), consequently the most engaging bassist I’ve ever seen live; the ever-smiling Matt Nasir (piano, organ, guitar, backing vocals) and the man with the rhythm, Nigel Powell (drums, percussion, backing vocals). The dynamics between Turner and The Sleeping Souls are perfect; they blend seamlessly together. There is no upstaging or friction between them and nor is there a sense of superiority from Turner. His band whose playing, like Turner’s, seems flawless, are entertaining and their passion and enthusiasm is infectious. It is clear that they love playing together and that they are in tune with the spirit of the music. The most outstanding part of the concert for me is when you realised, half-way through, that the other band members had quietly left the stage, leaving Turner and Nasir entertaining the audience alone; and yet the stage felt full. As a partnership, Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls can give a stunningly fervent, engaging performance and the balance between them is second-to-none; completely seamless.
As an already converted Frank Turner fan, even I was surprised by his precision and passion. He also comes across as a likeable and extremely honest character in his speeches, and his confession of enjoying audience participation rings true; as in his lyrics, Turner encourages his audience to do, take part and enjoy. And surely, that’s what life is all about.