Frank Turner keeps track of his concerts. The English singer-songwriter has been touring the world since at least 2006, and his performance Friday night at Revolution Live was, he proudly announced, show number 1,906. For a musician who virtually lives on the road—he wrote a killer song about the touring life, and played it last night—the daily assembly of screaming, lyric-shouting, fist-raising, mosh-pitting congregants to the cult of Turner has lost none of its transcendent appeal.
He’s arguably the best live performer I’ve ever seen. His joy at being alive and onstage and playing great music can teeter into recklessness, as when he trustingly stage-dove, backwards, into the center of the dance floor and then walked along the narrow bar just off stage left, toppling empty cups, during “Four Simple Words”—a site-specific send-off for a spectacular evening of folk-punk melodies.
Turner and his band, the Sleeping Souls, took to the stage later than many expected, at 9:15, striding out to the soaring strains of John Williams’ “Jurassic Music” score. This created a sense of epic anticipation easily bested by the first six songs: a greatest-hits medley of such fan favorites as “I Still Believe,” last year’s single “The Next Storm,” “Recovery” and “If I Ever Stray”—played Ramones-style, with nary a break in between.
The speed and pep of the early numbers inevitably lessened during the laid-back, occasionally acoustic middle section of the set, which included the lovely “Opening Act of Spring” and the terrific and obscure B-side “Heartless Bastard Motherfucker,” from a 2007 EP, played by request. Interactive flourishes ensured that Turner’s deeper cuts felt as excitingly performed as the hits: During “Glorious You,” he instructed us to show jazz hands during part of the chorus, and for “Dan’s Song,” he called up an eager audience volunteer to play the harmonica solo. Turner can be something of a ham onstage, relying on road-tested fallbacks such as questioning our call-and-response enthusiasm compared to cities in, say, Texas (cue the competitive boos). It was all in good fun.
By the time Turner and his band returned for a rousing pop-punk climax that featured “Out of Breath,” “Photosynthesis” and “Get Better,” the dance floor was pretty much an entire mosh pit—an agreeably nonaggressive slam-dancing celebration. Turner has some of the best fans of any band I know.
They also seemed to appreciate his one comment of political provocation. He massaged our patriotism by telling us that the U.S. was the “friendliest, most welcoming” country for an English musician to tour—but that if we want international bands to continue playing the States, “don’t elect that fucking prick.”
Punk effin’ rock.
- I Still Believe
- The Next Storm
- Try This at Home
- The Road
- If I Ever Stray
- Ace of Spades (Motorhead cover)
- Glorious You
- Long Live the Queen
- The Opening Act of Spring
- Heartless Bastard Motherfucker
- Dan’s Song
- Love Ire and Song
- The Way I Tend to Be
- Out of Breath
- Get Better
- Four Simple Words