Frank Turner saves us all: Republik Nightclub (October 20, 2011)
Frank Turner is one of the people.
Not content to be “one of five English guys with matching white shirts and bad teeth” entertaining the masses from the safety of the stage, he is a musician who tears down barriers and turns a concert into a bar room singalong. When Frank Turner insists that everyone join in (the hipsters up front, god love you, the curious who had nothing better to do tonight, the plus one’s, the security guys, the bartender), he means everyone.
And when he promises that setting aside our cool to clap and sing will make magic, will produce something transcendent, he is right. A man after my own heart.
Frank Turner was high on my list of must-sees at the Calgary Folk Festival a couple of years ago, where he simultaneously thrilled and charmed the crowd with his all-too-brief appearance. Headlining at Republik meant that the faithful could see the English folk troubadour in his natural element, a resurrected punk bar that celebrates dancing with abandon and spilling drinks. Although judging from the barfing I heard in the bathroom during the first opener, perhaps drinks were not being spilled quite fast enough.
We lost the Spousal Unit early in the evening, due to ill health, leaving my concert date and I free to get hit upon by one of the many Frank Turner look-alikes in attendance. But it was all done with jovial camaraderie and mirrored the sentiment of the entire evening.
I wasn’t terribly keen on the first opener, a bearded fellow with a guitar who goes by the name Into It. Over It. A bit too Barenaked Ladies for me. With more swearing.
The Andrew Jackson Jihad, on the other hand, who were the second openers, were far more fun. Something about them reminded me slightly of The Burning Hell, perhaps the big standup bass, but more likely the slightly subversive nature of their songs.
By the time Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls took the stage, the crowd was well lubricated and ready for a rollicking singalong. I have to say, Frank Turner doing a solo performance is amazing, but when you take that passion and energy and back it with a solid band like the Sleeping Souls, something sublime happens.
Frank Turner is rapidly establishing himself as the new Billy Bragg, an inspired and impassioned performer who is as thrilling to hear talk as he is to hear sing. Thursday night’s show was an intoxicating mix of folk sentiment, punk sensibility, self-effacing humour, and cocky self-awareness. To end the main set with a Freddie Mercury classic was inspired. To save the signature song – the criminally catchy Photosynthesis – as the extended all-voices belting out, all-hearts soaring encore finale, was perfect.
Frank Turner knows how to work a crowd and make it feel like it was all our idea.