I’m here at the LCR in Norwich for a sold out show with a bill topped by Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, just days away from a monumental 2000th show, a cause to be celebrated among fans worldwide. Before this mammoth event there are a handful of dates to complete as well as the small matter of a cinematic film release to overcome. Show number 1996 is the first of those hurdles and with the electric atmosphere in the room from the very start it promised to be a night to remember.
Esme Patterson (6.5/10) is first to take the stage. The room is already half way to being packed and, as the opening dreamy chords of her set start, the room is captivated. Esme is no stranger to the UK playing with Frank Turner on these shores before as well as a number of headline shows in her own right. The first couple of songs are less than rousing but 3 songs in there was a significant change in the attack and delivery offering something a whole lot more memorable. With a unique sound encompassing shades of folk, country and dark indie pop, Patterson offered a fitting start to the evening and although faced with an early stage time and a half filled room, delivered the goods, setting the tone for what’s to come.
The stage is quickly reset ready for the next act, Felix Hagan and the Family (9/10). They are not a band I know much about but have been promised a fantastic show. If feather boas, backing singers/dancers, organ and piano solos and glitter are your thing then you NEED to see this band. Felix Hagan exudes campness and is the embodiment of the words extravagant extrovert, a born performer put on this earth to captivate all who see him and the family. With a voice reminiscent of Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump with a dusting of naughties pop sensation Mika, Hagan offers something somewhere between complete novelty and your new favourite band. With Freddy Mercury-esque stage craft and a tonne of huge catchy songs that sound like a cross between soft porn backing music and the soundtrack for a Lion King reboot. With only 30 minutes to do their thing, the set is filled with as much drama as a Sunday afternoon Coronation Street omnibus and then some. At times there was the risk of this becoming a little overwhelming but with finely crafted songs I was won over completely. This is by no means everyone’s cup of tea but the general reception tonight was positive and Felix Hagan and the Family turn up the heat to get the crowd to boiling point in the run up to the headline act.
Another quick change around and beer break and it’s time for the reason we are all here. As Frank Turner (9.5/10) takes to the stage a roar erupts from the already sweaty crowd and with the opening few lines of ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous‘ it’s clear that Frank would not have to sing solo for long as the crowd joined in, as well as the Sleeping Souls, Frank’s long time backing band. ‘The Next Storm‘ and ‘I Still Believe‘ are knocked out of the park in quick succession before show number 1996 is formally introduced. After a few more numbers and much crowd participation an acoustic guitar is swapped for an electric, something traditionalist might cry Judas for. Those cries were soon stifled as Frank showcased his abilities to shred with the best of them (“I’ve been practicing and just get possessed by THE RIFF”).
A small solo section brought the pace down and allowed the crowd to catch their breath. Taking this time to speak of the charities supported by money raised from the tour, Frank spoke passionately about one in particular, ‘Safe Gigs For Women‘ (http://www.sgfw.org.uk) something he says should be obvious but sadly is not, before launching into seldom played ‘Song For Eva May‘ making a rare appearance as requested by a fan and the sing along Epic ‘The Ballad of Me And My Friends‘ before the full band returned to the stage. Frank’s cousins were in attendance tonight and were called up to the stage for a crowd surfing competition of epic proportions in ‘If Ever I Stray‘ before bringing the set to a close with fan favourite ‘Photosynthesis‘ complete with a “wall of hugs”. Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls returned for an encore including the title for the soon to be released biographical film ‘Get Better‘ and a powerful rendition of Tape Deck Heart favourite ‘Four Simple Words‘ which saw Frank crowd surf the length and breadth of the venue before slow dancing with one lucky member of the audience, a very personal touch to a very incredible show.
I would consider myself to be a “Frank Turner Veteran” having seen him play solo or with The Sleeping Souls everywhere from tiny club shows to festivals to the Royal Albert Hall but this has got to be the best of all of those. Frank has always been a talented talker but I struggle to think of anyone that included a crowd more than the performance given at the LCR. It makes this particular fan very excited to see what the next chapter of this punk rock fairy tale may hold. If history proves anything it is that Frank Turner will only ever get better (excuse the pun) in whatever he turns his hand to. May the hardest working man in Rock’n’Roll continue on for a very long time.