Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls | Photo Review
The Limelight, Belfast • Wednesday 18 April ’18
By Michael Ferguson Photos: Marta Janiszewska
At five minutes past nine on a Wednesday night the strains of the Bill Withers classic Lean of Me filtered out of the PA and it was the cue for Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls to hit the stage in Belfast for show number 2154 of his musical career.
Blackout from his upcoming new album is the opening track, a little more synthesizer than usual but the volume is as you would expect from Frank Turner, loud and proud, and he bounces out, guitar-less, and proceeds to give us nearly two hours of high volume, energetic punk-rock pop indie. It is indeed all those things rolled into one and has a Belfast crowd going mad with excitement right from the off.
By the time the band play only the second song of the evening, 1933, the place is thumping. The bass is like a giant heartbeat and you can feel it to the very core of your body and soul.
“We could get better because we’re not dead yet” cries the chorus of Get Better but death might just be close because this amazing band are absolutely killing it.
The end of this song provides the opportunity for Frank Turner to talk to his audience. He advises that there are two rules for his shows. The first is not to be an ars*hole, and that is in general, and the second is if you know the words then sing along. There is no doubt this is going to be an evening of singing along.
A lot of his songs paint pictures of hard times and how in the end no matter what you have to believe you can get through it. “It’s a long road up to recovery, from here” is the simple message from Recovery but the energy just keeps on growing to the point where you wonder how he will ever perform his after-show DJ set in the bar next door.
He coins the phrase Make America Great Again in the song of the same title. Another new song and rather than it being a song about Trump bashing it’s a dig at the racism culture that exist, not just in the US but here at home. Frank Turner says that although it looks like he is pointing the finger at people in many of his songs that the finger, without exception, always points at himself first.
Peggy Sang The Blues is a tribute penned for his grandmother who liked to drink Whiskey and play cards. Something to aspire to it seems.
The show is non stop, it is bursting out of the seams and Frank Turner’s energy, passion and love for what he is doing just shines like a beacon. His interaction with this audience is heartfelt and warm.
Reasons To Be An Idiot comes at you at 100 miles per hour and continues on at that pace right until the end.
When you look at Frank Turner it’s armfuls of tattoos, sweat and bouncing around. The Sleeping Souls look like they have no tattoos and do not sweat at all. How do they fit together so beautifully? Who knows but they do.
There She Is is a love song that is happy all the way through. Straight from the horse’s mouth. “Isn’t she everything?” it asks.
When you look around during Out Of Breath the only description fitting for this Belfast crowd is manic. They are going absolutely daft. Photosynthesis has a proper country twinge about it, harking back to the days of Miles Hunt and The Wonderstuff. It’s just a little curve ball thrown in the midst of songs of angst about love and life but it sits so well.
Frank Turner talks about the importance of crossing the Irish Sea and playing in Ireland before admitting they had inadvertently missed out Wales on this tour and the Welsh weren’t happy bunnies. Long may they continue to make the short journey because it would appear from the full house in the venue tonight that they will always be very welcome.
I Still Believe points out “something as simple as rock n’ roll would save us all” and isn’t that the truth. A room full of people tonight wholeheartedly agree.
Frank Turner takes his involvement with this crowd to a whole new level when he throws himself into the audience for a bit of crowd surfing and then clears a circle and gets down to dance. It’s just a musician doing something he loves with people who love what he is doing.
The final song of the night, Polaroid Picture gives an insight into the fragility of life and how things can change in the blink of an eye or quite literally the time it takes to take a Polaroid Picture. This is what Frank Turner has always managed to get across through his music, and through his live sets he never fails to look like he is loving it. What a way to be and he promised he will be back again soon.
And with that it was over, some two hours after they walked on stage they walk off to the background of the Nina Simone track My Baby Just Cares For Me. As ever where Frank Turner is concerned you are going to experience a great gig.