By Matt Arena
It’s always interesting to see successful acts overseas come to the US. The level of popularity usually takes a while to catch on, look at artists like Arctic Monkeys or Muse. For a while they went from household names in the UK to being relatively unknown in the US. Frank Turner had just recently headlined Wembley Arena and played at the opening ceremony in the Olympics, so having him at the 1500 person sized Webster Hall in New York would no doubt be a different experience to what he’s been used to lately. Having recently been in the US, he’s mentioned his love for the states in the past, it’s pretty clear that Frank Turner is quickly growing in popularity in the US too. Two sold out nights at Webster Hall attest to this.
Opening for Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls was Jenny Owen Youngs. The New Jersey native played with just an acoustic guitar and a microphone, but it was more than enough to wow the crowd. Of course, a Frank Turner crowd is more open to an acoustic set than your standard crowd, but that didn’t diminish how great she was. Her powerful voice fit the stripped down atmosphere quite well, as she bantered back and forth with the crowd as if she were playing in the corner of a coffee shop. The highlight of her set was the fantastic cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire,’ which had the entire crowd singing along to nearly every word. Not something you see every day during the first opener’s set. Up next was Larry and His Flask. Going in not knowing the band at all was a huge treat.
Being that this was the second of two shows at Webster Hall, many fans who attended the previous night noted how insanely energetic the band was. Of course nothing could actually prepare you for how out of this world entertaining this band is. Playing a mix of folk-punk, they crammed the stage with six members, all flailing and jumping around as if the ground was on fire. Massive upright basses were whipped around like tiny violins, guitarists clashed and bounced around the stage, it was impossible to watch them and not get caught up. Clearly the crowd felt the same as they were jumping and moshing so hard it was shaking the floor. During their last song, the band found their way into the crowd, with lead singer/guitarist Dallin Bulkley finding his way into the middle of crowd. From the stage, the audience was signaled to all crouch down, and they did, with Bulkley standing amongst them posing for pictures. As it grew silent, a yell from the stage came out, “this is a rock show, why the fuck are you all sitting down?” which threw the room into an absolute tizzy, as the band members bounced along the top of the audience and found their way back onstage.
Soon enough Frank Turner came out, accompanied by his touring/backing band, The Sleeping Souls. Frank has been known to do a number of acoustic shows, but hearing his songs with the extra punch of an electric guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard make them that much more special. Songs that are a bit more stripped back on the album, like ‘The Road,’ become layered anthems live. His song selection spanned material all across his career thus far, even sneaking in some new material, all of which hopefully make the cut onto the new album. Especially, ‘Wherefore Art Thou Gene Simmons,’ a song which was preempted by Frank recalling reading Simmons’ latest book and being wowed at the thousands of women he’s professed to sleep with. The song itself pokes fun at the sex, drugs, rock and roll lifestyle, and actually brings to light the sheer ridiculousness and danger of it all. That’s what makes Frank Turner such a great musician and just a great person in general. You’ll never see any of that rock star bullshit with him; in fact he hangs around at almost every show to chat with fans by the merch table. Not only to serve as an antithesis to the “untouchable rockstars” but to show his appreciation, this also comes through in his demeanor on stage. He always seems absolutely ecstatic and sincerely happy to be up on stage in front of all those people. That genuine spirit really is rare in music these days, between the manufactured studio musicians, and guys simply in it for the money, a guy like Frank Turner is incredibly refreshing. Needless to say, he absolutely killed at Webster Hall. Be on the lookout for his latest studio album, which he’s currently recording in LA and in the meantime pick up his latest compilation album, Last Minutes and Lost Evenings.