Photo by Stephen McGill
Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls had the entire soldout crowd singing, clapping and dancing for their entire set Sunday night at Ritual Nightclub in Ottawa. The capital was probably full of sore throats and tender hands Monday morning considering the constant fan participation in the amazing set by one of England’s greatest artistic exports, Frank Turner.
There are very few musicians out there that genuinely look like they are having as much fun and exude that much energy from behind a guitar and a microphone. His energy is contagious. You can’t help but sing along and clap at every opportunity, and with Turner, there are plenty of opportunities to be heard and participate. There was something extra special about this show, not only was it the first of his little mini-tour, it was the first proper show with a band of 2015 for Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls — quite the honour for Ottawa.
This was the most balanced set I have ever seen Frank Turner play, featuring music from every album as well as songs from the yet-to-be-named and far-from-released album. This made the set pleasantly unpredictable, such as playing songs he often keeps for later on, or playing the usual encores like “Four Simple Words” and “Glory Hallelujah” very early on. Frank also took this mini-tour to test drive some new material including such as their next single “The Next Storm,” a song about fucking up called “Good and Gone,” and a song about playing chess against death. I love the direction of the new songs, they were a little more rocking than those on Tape Deck Heart. Don’t fret though, they did make time for the staples and crowd favourites throughout the show playing “If I Ever Stray,” “Photosynthesis,” “Plain Sailing Weather,” “Try This at Home,” and “Substitute.” The performance also spanned almost two full hours which was such a treat.
At his core, Frank Turner is a bleeding heart punk rocker from a small town in England. This shines through in how much he connects with the locals wherever he plays in an effort to make every show an intimate affair. He changes the lyrics in many of his songs to reflect the city he’s playing in, like he did during “The Road,” or playing a cover of local or national musicians. Last time he was in town, Frank covered Jim Bryson, this time around he played “Bigfoot” by The Weakerthans, which he introduced by saying, “My favourite songwriter ever is from Canada. His name is John K. Samson and he sings in The Weakerthans.” He also took the time to encourage us all to picket outside of the Lone Star because of how irate it makes him that the employees are forced to wear tacky cowboy hats.
With all that covered, the band played “Recovery” and “Ballad of Me and My Friends,” before leaving for a short break. Having caught their breath, they returned to the stage to close out with “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous” and “I Still Believe.” There are very more perfect ways to end a set with a song focused on how music can save a soul with a closing line of, “Now who’d have thought that after all, Something so simple, something so small. Who’d have thought that after all it’s rock n roll.”
Getting the night started was local singer-songwriter Cory Levesque. Cory is a humble bearded man with a big heart and an acoustic guitar, sometimes a harmonica. He played great heartfelt tracks like “Where I’d Rather Be,” “Fuck Redial,” “Filling the Void,” and “The Time Will Come.” The crowd loved everything about him, hooting and hollering the entire set. They weren’t the only ones, Frank Turner sat by the side of the stage for most of the set bobbing and clapping along and gave him a big shoutout on stage. Cory is just so real on stage, looking shocked, shy and almost uncomfortable every time the crowd clapped for him and showed him love. He gave back by bringing up a member of the crowd to play harmonica for him on “Broken Chords and Melodies” (video below). It was a lot of fun to see Cory back at it playing solo as he has spent a lot of time on his other project, punk rock band Fresh Hell.