Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls @ Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Wales 2.06.14
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 03.17.2014
Frank Turner takes his folk rock sensibilities on his largest headline tour to date, but how does his sound hold up in front of much larger audiences?
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls are:
Frank Turner – vocals, guitar
Ben Lloyd – guitar, mandolin
Tarrant Anderson – bass
Matt Nasir – piano
Nigel Powell – drums
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Wales 2.06.14
2. Plain Sailing Weather
3. Peggy Sang the Blues
4. Losing Days
5. Try This At Home
6. Glory Hallelujah
7. Reasons Not to Be an Idiot
8. The Way I Tend to Be
9. Sweet Albion Blues
10. Wisdom Teeth
11. To Take You Home
12. Wessex Boy
13. Polaroid Picture
14. The Road
15. If I Ever Stray
17. I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
18. One Foot Before the Other
19. Long Live the Queen
21. Broken Piano
22. The Ballad of Me and My Friends
23. I Still Believe
24. Four Simple Words
Frank Turner opens the gig by launching into “Photosynthesis,” an absolute anthem that fans are used to seeing close Turner's sets, not open them. But it's delivered with the same ferocity as it ever has been, and still provokes a rabid response from his adoring fans. Aptly, Turner heads into the first chorus with the line “time may change a lot, but some things they stay the same.” This is the first night of Frank's first-ever arena tour. Turner and his backing band the Sleeping Souls played a one-off date in front of 12,000 fans at a sold out Wembley Arena back in 2012, but this is a full tour made up of predominantly arenas, and it's selling well. Turner hasn't got to these venues on the basis of making catchy pop songs that anyone can enjoy. Nor has he got here thanks to a little bit of exposure from the 2012 Olympics. He's got here by putting out consistently good material for the last eight years, and being able to support that material with raucous live shows. The bond he has with his fan base is a special one. The guy has played thousands and thousands of shows, touring almost non-stop since former band the Million Dead disbanded. This tour is something Frank Turner has earned.
But there's a certain level of scepticism. The vast majority of people who have seen Frank on tour at any point in the last few years will have seen him in an intimate setting. This is not intimate. This is an 8,000 capacity venue, and many of the other venues on this tour are even bigger. Turner himself discussed the switch to arenas following the announcement of the tour, reassuring fans that they'd be bringing the best show possible. Why anybody doubted Frank Turner, I'll never know, because there's very, very few people that can command a stage and hold an audience in the palm of his hand quite like Frank Turner does. Opener “Photosynthesis” is met with wild enthusiasm before Turner nails “Plain Sailing Weather” from most recent album Tape Deck Heart and “Peggy Sang the Blues” from England Keep My Bones. It becomes pretty clear really early on that he's got the balance right between newer and older material, as he always does. But the thing about Frank's material is that his fans love all of it, because it is genuinely of an unparalleled consistency. Turner soon launches into “Try This At Home,” a personal favourite and clearly a much-loved favourite of the majority here as well.
The Motorpoint Arena (formerly Cardiff International Arena) has a history of awkward sound problems but there seemed to be no such issues here. Turner and the Sleeping Souls sounded crisp throughout with no sound or production issues. They also have this unique authenticity about their lives shows that many thought would fall by the wayside following the move to bigger arenas, but there's something genuine about Frank, his friends and his songs that apparently translate to any sized-audience. “Reasons Not to Be an Idiot” gets a brilliant rendition, while “The Way I Tend to Be” is a phenomenal self-loathing juggernaut that everyone joins in with. Throughout the show Turner has plenty of tricks, fun and games to get the crowd involved, whether it's clapping along, singing along, jumping in unison or dancing wildly. It's a credit to him as a performer that he holds such a large audience in his hand with the same relative ease with which he commands a show in front of a few hundred. The set list lulls into familiar comfort as Frank brings out some older tracks, favourites “Wisdom Teeth” and “To Take You Home,” before one of his most personal songs lights up the arena, the mammoth “Wessex Boy.” He pops the crowd with a little bit of playing to the hometown, but it's done in a teasing, charming way rather than disingenuously.
Frank proceeds to play through a string of hits and anthems, from new single “Polaroid Picture” to the nomadic “The Road.” “If I Ever Stray” is treated delicately, and makes for a set-highlight. The song creates wave after wave of bouncing Cardiff natives and those who have come from further afield, but it's another of Turner's tracks that unites an audience. “Eulogy” is another well-placed sing-along-inducer. Cardiff screams every word back to Turner like they mean it. The end of the main set is packed with old favourites including “...Prufrock...,” “One Foot Before the Other” and “Long Live the Queen.” We're then treated to a rambunctious performance of Tape Deck Heart lead single “Recovery” that electrifies the Motorpoint quite unlike anything else proceeding, and it's yet more evidence that Turner is gaining more and more fans, bit by bit. A subtle rendition of “Broken Piano” closes the main set before an anthem-packed encore. Old stalwart “The Ballad of Me and My Friends” gets the expected and deserved response, before the crowd erupts once more for the call to arms that is “I Still Believe.” “Four Simple Words” is a song from Tape Deck Heart, but it's one that's been played live for a long while, so fans were chuffed with the choice for set-closer. It's delicate piano intro suddenly erupts into a punk rock riot that rarely occurs in arenas this size any more. It's a fitting close to a cracking show that puts Frank Turner on the map as someone with unlimited potential. If he can take these songs and nail shows like this on this scale, there's no reason he can't be headlining main stages around the world and on this evidence, it's only a matter of time.
“Somebody told me that music with guitars / Was going out of fashion and I had to laugh / This shit wasn't fashionable when I fell in love / So if the hipsters move on, why should I give a fuck?”
Frank Turner - “The Way I Tend to Be”
Frank Turner is currently touring Europe, before a couple of South African dates next month. He then takes his full band to North America, before returning to the UK and Europe in June in time for festival season.
The 411: Frank Turner can do no wrong when it comes to live performances. You're surrounded by thousands and thousands of other fans, and yet at times he makes it feel like it's only you and him in the room. The next minute there's 8,000 people in a rapture, singing, dancing, clapping and bouncing along to every single word. He's quintessentially British, he's a genuine worker and a creative song-writer. Frank Turner is the everyman and his live shows are a must-see for any music fan.