Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls
The Pyramid and Parr Hall, Warrington
6 December 2016
Frank Turner rolls his tour into Warrington – our man Ian Critchley was there for the surprising and entertaining show.
“The majority of the day had been spent waiting around the venue and dropping inside at various intervals to interview the acts, so by the end of the last interview we were pretty damn hungry. We had about 45 minutes to pick up a pizza and then get in for Esme Patterson. Unfortunately, the best laid plans… yadda yadda and the nearest takeaway not only took the entire 45 minutes to make our first meal of the day, but the chef was suffering from, what I can only imagine from the amount of coughing and sneezing he was doing, was the plague. We eventually got our meal, with extra toppings of phlegm free of charge, and headed back as Felix Hagan & The Family took to the stage.
Fast food rants aside, my excitement for this show was incredibly high. Roughly two years ago I’d been at this exact venue watching Frank and it had been one of my favourite shows to date. The Pyramid and Parr is the perfect size of venue for a Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls show. Not so big that it feels distant, and not so small that it results in the Winchester troubadour’s backing band being left out. But the stage tonight seemed a little too small for Felix Hagan and his motley crew. Apart from his bandmember list running to almost double figures, this ragtag bunch of theatrical artistes (yes that “e” is meant to be there, I’m being cultured goddamnit) took dominance over the stage and performed more like hardened veterans and less like a reasonably fresh band on their first big tour.
Felix Hagan & The Family are a difficult act to describe, it’s kind of like a gaggle of theatre school drop outs ran off to join the circus, got sick of that life, and then ran off again and started a tribute band to the songs from David Bowie’s Labrynth. So, basically, it’s fucking awesome. This is all tied together by their ringleader Felix, a gargantuan personality with the fashion flair of a Grazia model and the vocal range of a top class Freddy Mercury impersonator, who bowled over the audience with such stage presence many were left wondering, “wait, who’s the headliner again?”
But these pondering minds were soon snapped right back to the reality of why they were here. Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls entered to a thundering applause from an audience hungry for their fix of acoustic rock. Opening with oldtime fan favourite ‘I Knew Pruforck Before He Was Famous’ the set, though still technically part of the Positive Songs For Negative People promo shows, was littered with a healthy mix of both new and old.
From single ‘The Next Storm’ to ‘Long Live The Queen’ (with an added big rock jump from Frank off Nigel’s drum set mid-song) to ‘Polaroid Picture’, winding down into solo acoustic renditions of past favourites such as ‘St. Christopher Is Coming Home’, before blowing the roof off with full band rock again for the latter part of the show, there was definitely something for both the old-school and the fresh faces of Turner’s music.
Throughout the night Frank kept hitting home the message about wanting his shows to be about having a fun time and, for the most part, this was done in his usual jovial stage manner. But he became slightly more aggressive when discussing having the ‘Safe Gigs For Women’ movement on tour with him. “I think the fact I have to go on tour with a group called Safe Gigs For Women in 2016 is fucking sad…and if anyone is the kind of person who does that shit then you can just fucking leave. I’d rather play to less people”, detailing how many gig-goers are unaware that sexual groping, among othert things, is quite a common occurences at shows.
To show his support he invited SGW member, and my personal friend, Anna onto the stage and ordered the audience to crowdsurf her to the back of the room, then along the back row, before returning to the front again. This was done with both speed and hilarity, Anna managing to procure a cardboard gold crown from Burger King along the way.
The show continued at maximum energy ending with a double hit of ‘Get Better’ and the dance-tastic ‘Four Simple Words’ with a band who have toured relentlessly and none-stop together still maintaining the same fresh dynamic and comraderie as they did when they first set out.
The positive vibes from this tight-knit group of friends and their punk-influenced frontman oozed out into the audience throughout the evening and, as I watched the sweat drenched faces of attendees as they exited the venue with grins plastered across their faces, it was clear that I wasn’t the only one who had enjoyed the show a ridiculous amount.
A Frank show is always filled with surprises but the one thing that can always be predicted is that it’ll be entertaining as hell. This was no exception.
Find out more about Safe Gigs for Women here.
All word by Ian Critchley. You can read more from Ian in his Louder Than War author archive here.
Image by Andrew AB. You can find his work on his Facebook page.