Frank Turner doesn’t seem to have the ability to stop. Last night, he and his band The Sleeping Souls kicked off a lengthy European tour with show #1,808 at Utrecht’s TivoliVredenburg in front of nearly 2,000 dedicated fans. A hefty chunk of this had travelled from the United Kingdom or Germany, with a Dutch contingent of new hardcore fans also making their way to Utrecht on a cold winter’s day. Joining Turner and co. last night were witty singer-songwriter Will Varley and the energetic machine that is Skinny Lister.
Will Varley entertained a half-full room for some 25 minutes with his witty, social commentary-esque songs. Let’s be fair, a lot of the songs were culturally specific to things British crowd members could relate to (see: a dig at Injury Lawyers 4U), but it didn’t stop the whole crowd from enjoying the set. Varley himself is a brilliant frontman and songwriter, using his guitar merely as a calm undertone to his fun lyrics. One song, I Got This Email, referred in part to the spam emails we all get often from fake African kings. “I got this email from the prince of a country somewhere” sang Varley, continuing “he said his plan could never fail, I’d give him all my bank details and he’ll make a millionaire” as laughter erupted from throughout the room. The song, which closed out Varley’s set, further referenced a story about David Cameron and Nick Clegg (complete with his Gameboy Advance). Earlier on in the set, Varley also song about viral videos and cats (“I can make your cat a star”), making for an early crowd pleaser. Varley is a very clever musician, and his lyrics definitely resonated with the crowd.
Some 10 minutes later, London outfit Skinny Lister took to the stage. 2015’s newest record Down on Deptford Broadway featured predominantly over the course of the band’s 30-minute set, one which was filled to the brim with energy. Hawaiian bassist Michael Camino deserves an honourable mention, with he and his upright bass crowdsurfing together at one point late on in the set. Co-vocalist Lorna Thompson also jumped into the crowd at one point in order to dance with fans and walk around a bit, something which upped the general energy and positive vibe in the whole room. Set highlight Rollin’ Over made way for the powerful This is War, which included a long call-and-response section with the crowd. Skinny Lister don’t make their way over to Holland very often, however it sounds like this might change soon as they make more of a name for themselves on Dutch shores.
Frank Turner took to the stage just after 9pm for a mammoth set which drew heavily from new album Positive Songs for Negative People. Flanked by his band The Sleeping Souls, as well as two big light-up +/- boards, Turner and co. kicked off the show with recent single The Next Storm. “We had a difficult winter, we had a rough few months” sang Turner as he was underpinned by jangly guitars which preceded a huge chorus. A collective chant of “Rejoice! Rejoice!” was shouted back at Turner by the whole crowd, before older tracks I Am Disappeared and The Road both followed. Turner played some 27 songs over the course of the evening, his show spanning nearly two hours in length. During the first part of the set, old and new tracks mixed as Turner interacted well with the crowd. After Losing Days, Turner kicked off a competition which split the room into two halves, namely Team Terrence and Team Ben. It was essentially a way of getting the teams to sing louder than one another, with Turner giving updates throughout. Newer track Josephine was an anthemic highlight early on as Turner sang of the name Josephine, which “came to me in a dream”. “I could’ve been anyone” he further sang during the chorus, before fan favourite Peggy Sang the Blues caused a mass sing-a-long. The fast-paced The Opening Act of Spring closed out the first part of the set, with a mandolin taking the lead throughout.
As The Sleeping Souls left the stage, Turner was left alone with just his guitar for an intimate acoustic session. Kicking off the three-song sting with St. Christopher is Coming Home, Turner proceeded to play a fan request in the form of Tell Tale Signs, taken from 2013’s Tape Deck Heart. The song was requested through email by various fans, meaning that Turner felt he had to play the track. He ended his acoustic set with classic track The Ballad of Me and My Friends, which is one of his oldest fan favourites. The track tells a story, one which Turner tells very well. As his band returned to the stage, they kicked into the powerful combo of 2008’s Reasons to be An Idiot and the mesmerising Glory Hallelujah. As the show progressed on nicely, the crowd got more rowdy and energetic, something which sparked a nice pit during newer cut Out of Breath, an upbeat punk track. Showtune-y piano lines and a huge chorus made out the forefront of the track, one which came to an abrupt end as fan favourite Photosynthesis followed suit. Turner and his sharply-dressed band are stunning to watch onstage, mainly due to the boundless energy they possess when they run and jump around stage interacting with the crowd. Towards the end of the main set, newer track Get Better made for the highlight of the whole evening. If this song doesn’t up your spirits one way or another, then something is clearly wrong. “We can get better, because we’re not dead yet!” declared Turner emphatically, singing in a manner so uplifting that all most people could do was raise a glass and rejoice. The equally anthemic Recovery closed the main set, before the band returned for a four-song encore. The Angel Islington saw Frank kick off the encore by himself, before The Way I Tend to Be made way for the double-header of I Still Believe and Four Simple Words. It was a pretty euphoric combination which made for an absolutely electric finish to a spectacular show. Turner and his band are one of the best live groups around today, and there aren’t many people who come close to the amount of energy which they present onstage. Four simple words: what a fantastic set.
Positive Songs for Negative People is out now. Click here for more pictures from the show.