Live Review: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

Folk Punk Troubadour Raises The Scots Capital To Its Feet

frank turner & the sleeping souls

WEMBLEY ARENA. The Olympic stadium. V Festival. Edinburgh Picturehouse. 2012 may be the year Frank Turner transcended genre and scene loyalties to become a proper player on the domestic (and global) stage but he’s chosen to finish it off with real class – reaffirming his dedication to his roots and hardcore fans who’ve taken him to where he is today. Eschewing major cities like London and Glasgow, Edinburgh is the only full-band Scottish date on the tour, but the electric atmosphere in this heaving theatre guarantees every kindred spirit packed in is here to make it count.

Opening with verve, the folk-inflected indie-rock of Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun mightn’t quite merit Turner’s assertion that they’re “the best new band in the UK” but there is a kind of pointed purpose to their sound (think Mumford and Sons wound up on White Lightning) that manages top win over a hefty cleft of this partisan crowd.

More reminiscent of the stripped-down Frank Turner of old, Tim Barry may be a more southern-fried proposition that you’d expect but there’s a thick, basted-on charm to his narrative-driven ballads. “I can’t sing and I’m not great at guitar” he concedes at one point – and he’s not entirely wrong – but to criticise him for this would be to miss the point. Barry’s a performer whose currency lies in roadworn charm and unquenchable spirit and though he was never going to break tonight’s sense of headline anticipation he at least temporarily dissipates it with a few Turner-esque tales of his own.

And with the main event, it looks like the building might crumble down onto the stage.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

Emerging in backlit silhouette and staying that way whilst performing astonishingly impassioned opener I Am Disappeared, Turner seems to be making a statement about music over celebrity persona. It’s understandable. The one-time Million Dead frontman has vastly outgrown his musical roots and though he’s evidently not beyond taking the big shows, he maintains a splendidly stubborn grip on the ground from which he sprung. The crowd may be nigh on rapture, but he’s still self-evidently an angry, skinny, English boy clinging defiantly to his acoustic guitar.

Thankfully, his dedication’s repaid in kind. The audience threaten to drown out the band on stage for large sections of the gig. As the lights come up for a tumbling, energised run-through of The Road it’s clear that everyone here is completely onside. The dancefloor is a sea of movement. The balcony creaks under a couple of hundred necks straining for a better view. Glory Hallelujah proves a mid-set highlight; the atheist anthem proving divisive for a folky, Scots crowd peppered with the devout. And yet there’s no negativity to the song’s message and it delivers an emotional surge with a definite, unassailable “live while you’re alive” message. New song Four Simple Words (I Want To Dance) finds itself already ingrained after months in the live arena. The capital mightn’t produce many memorable moves in what Frank terms his “Domestic dance contest” but the sense of chaotic jubilation ensures this peculiarly English songwriter has plenty of celtic compatriots.

Even over a 21-odd song set there’s no loss in momentum.

Tellingly, the three song encore of If Ever I Stray, Photosynthesis and Dan’s Song whips by and just like that the folk-punk troubadour and his ever-tightening Sleeping Souls are tantalisingly, slightly heart-breakingly disappeared. Perhaps the best thing, though, is knowing that at least Turner’s road has many, many miles left to run and – with his heroic dedication to his people and his homeland – it can’t be too long until it winds back round this way again.