This was supposed to be a review of Frank Turner’s Rock City show on 16 November 2015, but I have to admit I cheated with this one. That show was the second of a double header of sold out Rock City shows for Mr. Turner and I happened to attend both. The main lesson I picked up from this is that Frank Turner does not get boring, at least not over 48 hours. These shows were nothing short of glorious. Both nights saw queues spanning Talbot Street long before doors were even opened. Frank Turner has been known for keeping great company on these tours, and one could not be blamed for not wanting to miss the next great Xtra Mile act opening the show.
Fans were rewarded with the ever entertaining Will Varley. Having the crowd in the palm of his hand from the opener ‘They Wonder Why We Binge Drink’. Varley’s politically charged wit seems to garner a greater reaction on the first night, but both crowds were certainly laughing after the line “you learn pretty soon if you cry you’ll get tit/you learn how to crawl and you learn how to shit”. Striking the audience as bitingly accurate, ‘We Don’t believe you’ goes down incredibly well. The solemn social criticism is played off by songs about self-checkouts and email scams on the first night, and cats and his father’s genitals on the second. Much like his label mate Beans on Toast, Varley gives the crowd the chance to choose a few of his songs on the spot, giving each performance a wonderfully unique feel, even if some of the jokes remain the same.
“Frank Turner does not get boring, over 48 hours at least”
The main support for these two shows was Skinny Lister. At first they seemed like any other folk-punk band, fitting more into the folk category than the punk category. By their third song each night they managed to win the crowd over and people really starting moving. The atmosphere helped the band massively and suddenly they were incredible showmen (and women). The songs gradually became more impressive as each of the sets went on and by the time they were finished, nobody wanted to see them go. Halfway through the set each night their double bassist spent a song crowdsurfing, while playing might I add. Needless to say that was one hell of a stunt and had everyone on board. Skinny Lister certainly have a knack for writing fantastic songs, and would be brilliant at a headline show, where the crowd are ready for them, it just took a little while to get an eight o clock crowd going. Having said that, they performed their role of warming the crowd up spectacularly each night.
By the time The Sleeping Souls gracefully accompanied Frank Turner to the stage, the packed out Rock City was ready to explode. On the first night the band kicked straight into ‘Get Better’ and everyone in the venue dived into action. The extensive set then continued with great energy with very few gaps. The fans barely stopped moving until The Sleeping Souls disappeared and they were treated to three classic Frank Turner Songs played solo. Even at this point the room sang every word. To the point where Frank could have taken the night off in the knowledge that he had two and a half thousand very capable understudies. After dedicating ‘Journey of the Magi’ to Nick Alexander, a friend of his who had unfortunately passed away during the attack on the Bataclan just two days earlier, the band returned to the stage to blast through nine more songs before a four song encore, closing both nights with ‘Four Simple Words’.
“The fans barely stopped moving until The Sleeping Souls disappeared”
The second night exclusively contained ‘I knew Prufrock…’, ‘Song for Josh’, ‘Balthazar Impresario’, ‘Wessex Boy’, ‘Demons’, ‘Cowboy Chords’ and opened with ‘Eulogy’. Whereas the first show had ‘Poetry of the Deed’, ‘Journey of the Magi’, ‘Opening act of Spring’, ‘Ballad of me and my Friends’, ‘Father’s Day’, ‘Love, Ire & Song, and ‘The Angel Islington’ which did not get played the following night. The fact that seven of the thirty songs the band played each night were swapped is a testament to the number of astonishingly great songs Frank Turner has in his back catalogue. Both hardcore and casual fans left happy with the mix of songs in the set as well, with the band playing numerous songs from each album and only slightly favouring the new material. The only thing frustrating aspect was the fact that some of the stage banter was repeated word for word each night. I suppose there are only so many ways to make the same point each night for a whole tour, and perhaps that’s a very small price to pay in return for two evenings of magnificent entertainment. Very few put on a show like Frank Turner and two consecutive nights felt like a blessing rather than a chore.
Image: Ungry Yun Man via Flickr