As the UK summer draws to an end and the festival season is almost over my mind has turned to booking indoor gigs to ensure that I get my regular fix of musical delight. As I browsed the local gig listings I felt depression set in. Dorset you see is something of a musical black hole. There is a very lively ‘local’ music scene but there seems to be a reluctance from anyone of any note to visit our lovely County. You get the odd decent band at the Electric Palace in Bridport but it seems that no-one wants to play in Poole and very few play Bournemouth.
As I looked a little further afield I happened upon a listing for Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls at Westlands in Yeovil. I was surprised to see that 2 weeks before the gig there were still tickets available. I sent a quick text to my son to see if he wanted to go and duly booked the tickets. So late Saturday afternoon saw us jump in the car for the 60 minute drive to Yeovil.
We arrived at Westlands in plenty of time as we had to collect our tickets from the venue. I was less that impressed with the building which looked like a 1970’s built sports centre and in my experience that normally equates to poor acoustics and dreadful sound, an impression that was thankfully dispelled later. After picking up our tickets we jumped back in the car and headed to a nearby pub for some food and drink.
We headed back to Westlands arriving to find the venue still fairly quiet so we wandered in finding a place centre stage just a couple of rows back from the barrier. I had anticipated the support, ‘Koo Koo Kangaroo’ starting at 7.30 but had a 40 minute wait to the 8pm start. What can you say about the support well they are different that is for sure. They are a bit like a cross between Jane Fonda and Ice -T. They use a rap style backing track to sing silly songs and get the crowd dancing in an exercise video style. Sounds hideous right? I must admit when they started my son and I just looked at each other in disbelief and said OMFG!! After a song or two though I couldn’t help smiling and after about 15 minutes we were joining in, laughing and smiling. Ok lets be honest the musical credibility (in my book) was at best questionable but these guys were tremendous fun and they certainly warmed the crowd up.
One of the things I really like about Frank Turner is that he is very supportive in giving other acts a break on his tours. He was at the side of the stage watching Koo Koo Kangeroo, smiling, laughing and singing along as he drank his pre-show tea.
It has been interesting to note how Franks fan base has developed over the last few years. The crowd at a FT & the Sleeping Souls gig is far removed from what you would see at a Million Dead or Mongol Horde Gig. At least 50% of the crowd are teenage girls but to be fair they are clearly into the music, there is none of the shouting and screaming that you might see at a ‘boy band’ concert. Well almost none, there was one twenty something who insisted on shouting “We love you Frank”, and “We’ve got your hat Frank” throughout the show. Sad really.
Turner and his band took to the stage at exactly 9pm and opened with ‘Try this at home’ from 2009’s ‘Poetry of the deed’. The band worked through ten songs from across Turners back catalogue before Frank played three songs solo. One of these was a new song ‘little Aphrodite’ written for a girl Frank said he was in love with but who didn’t love him back. The second solo song for me provided one of the highlights of the night with ‘Must try harder’ from ‘sleep is for the week’. Turner said he thinks he had only played it live once before and he did struggle with it a little at times. He missed the chords on one occasion and forgot the words during the second verse. I like this approach though, how much better is it for fans to hear a rarely played song than to hear exactly the same list of songs at every show on a tour, an approach taken far too often by far too many artists. I would much rather see an artist stretching themselves and getting it wrong than playing by numbers. In my book yet another reason to admire Turners approach to the music business.
Turner is an artist who really respects his fans. He always tries to find time for them and has built a great relationship with them. This is based on mutual trust. Last night he played four new songs during the set. He asked people not to video them as they were still a work in progress but he went on to say that he did not want security to interfere if people were taking pictures or videoing anything else. It seemed to me that taking this approach meant that most people respected his wishes.
Over the course of the evening we were treated to a very strong set with 5 or 6 songs from each of ‘Tape Deck heart’, ‘England keep my bones’ and ‘Love, Ire & Song’. There were many highlights and songs like ‘Prufrock’, Losing Days’, ‘Long live the queen’ & ‘Plain Sailing weather’ are now staples in the set. ‘St Christopher is coming home’, ‘Wessex Boy’ and ‘Peggy sang the Blues’ were personal highlights but I think the audience enjoyed every song and they sang and danced their way through the whole set. I love it when artists I love cover songs by other artists I love. Tonight Frank did a brilliant version of Springsteens ‘Thunder Road’ as the first of four encore songs. Sadly most of the audience were probably not even born when ‘Born to run’ was released and didn’t know the song. Franks younger fans should download ‘Born to run’ and ‘Born in the USA’. They are timeless albums, groundbreaking and as relevant today as they were on their release. It must also be said that a Springsteen gig is a never to be forgotten experience, he is a peerless live performer and even though he is now over 60 years old he was still doing 4 hour shows in 2012.
All great shows leave the audience wanting more and after Thunder Road we were treated to a trio of anthemic songs in ‘Prufrock’, ‘I still believe’ and of course ‘Four simple words’. In all we were treated to a total of 24 songs and at the close I was drenched in sweat from head to toe. I was exhausted, elated and extremely grateful that I had been able to attend a superb gig by an artist who is right at the top of his game. I look forward to the new album and the tour that will inevitably follow.
Nb. The photos used to illustrate this article are from Franks Larmer Tree festival Show in July. I didn’t take my camera last night as I wasn’t sure on the venues policy and I just wanted to enjoy the show 😉