Not every artist can recall exactly how many concerts they have performed in their lives, but Frank Turner is not your average artist. The English native closed out his recent 47-date US tour and performed his 1,775th show in front of an enthusiastic Houston crowd.
When you see an artist who typically performs with an acoustic guitar like Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, it’s easy to assume that their concert may be more mellow, but that was not the case on Thursday night.
The show kicked off with openers Beans on Toast and Skinny Lister (unfortunately, I missed Beans on Toast because I was at Turner’s Cactus in-store event). But luckily I arrived just in time for Skinny Lister.
Skinny Lister isn’t your typical folk band. However, they do take that classic folky sound everyone is familiar with, but they infuse it with a unique high energy. The six-piece features your typical frontwoman, guitarist and drummer, oh, and an accordion player and double bass player (whose bass reads ‘This Machine Kills Dubstep.’)
Their opening performance is unlike any other. The whole purpose of an opening band is to warm up the crowd and introduce the show, but Skinny Lister really make the show their own. You almost forget they’re not headlining during their set, especially when bassist Michael Camino crowdsurfs across the venue and frontwoman Lorna Thomas makes her way into the crowd to waltz with fans.
Despite the exciting and entertaining opening, the night really belonged to Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, who performed an impressive 27 song setlist, which consisted of “old songs, new songs, and a couple of mid-period songs,” as detailed by Turner himself. His sound is truly unique and can only be described as acoustic punk rock. Just take a listen and you’ll understand.
Turner started the night off strong with the upbeat tunes “Get Better” and “If Ever I Stray.” They provided a great transition from the energy left in the atmosphere by Skinny Lister, to the excitement of the headliner finally taking the stage.
However, the highlight of the night came about halfway through the set when the band exited the stage and a lone spotlight turned on Turner. He took the time to perform two song requests sent to him via email by fans. He reminded the crowd that it had been “a thousand years” since he played these songs, but willingly catered to the requests of “Once We Were Anarchists and “Hold Your Tongue” anyway.
Admittedly, the House of Blues wasn’t as full as it has been for concerts past, but it actually just added to the overall atmosphere of the show. It was truly an intimate experience. The crowd consisted mostly of adults who actually acted as if Turner was giving them the best night of their lives. They screamed the lyrics to favorites such as “I Still Believe” (in which one of his crew members joined him on stage sporting a squirrel mask and Elvis costume), “Photosynthesis” (in which he had the entire crowd sitting on the ground at one point), Glory Hallelujah,” “Recovery” and several couples in the audience even slow danced to “Four Simple Words.”
Even after playing a hefty 24 songs, more than the average for a headlining tour at a place like the House of Blues, Turner returned for a three-song encore that still somehow left the crowd wanting more.
He started off the encore with an emotional rendition of “Song for Josh,” a tune about a friend of his who unfortunately committed suicide. Turner sold a seven inch record of the song and donated all of the proceeds to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The crowd collectively took a moment wipe away tears and basked in the soft acoustic sounds as the song came to an end.
The mood then took a complete 180 degree turn. During “Recovery,” Beans on Toast and members of Skinny Lister joined him on stage to lead the crowd in several sets of jumping jacks, to which the majority surprisingly obliged. He wrapped up the night by getting rid of his acoustic guitar in the middle of “Four Simple Words” while belting the lyrics “hi ho hi ho hi ho, we’re heading out to the punk rock show” to jump onto the crowd. He impressively continued the performance as the crowd carried him all the way to the back of the venue. He eventually made his way back to the stage as the song slowed back down to perform a silly love skit with his guitarist and finishing the long, exhausting night off strong.
Turner the Sleeping Souls exited the stage as the crowd soaked in the aftermath of a long, exciting show. The energy hung in the air as fans collected set lists and posters and gathered around a worn-out piece of cloth to take pictures. That mysterious piece of cloth actually turned out to be a flag bearing the artwork of Turner’s recent release Positive Songs for Negative People and the hashtag #FTHCFLAG, which fans had handed off to a new owner so it could make an appearance at every date of the US tour.
Frank Turner fans may not make themselves known in numbers, but they sure as heck will show up with the most passion and enthusiasm. Every person in the building knew the words to a majority of the hefty setlist (or at least made up for it with their dance moves), and the presence of the flag shows their true love and dedication for the artist. A Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls show is truly an experience, and not something to sleep on.
Unfortunately the tour is over, but Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls will be back in the US in December! Check out those dates, here.
By Sarah Hoffman