Frank Turner Wraps Up US Tour with Stops in Baltimore and New York
Frank Turner at Ram’s Head Live! on September 28, 2012
Words by JJ Sheffer | Photos by Digital Ephemera Photography
“Welcome to show number 1,280.”
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls never slow down. Their show at Ram’s Head Live! in Baltimore last Friday night showed an unmistakable growth over their last US tour earlier this year – there just seemed to be something different about them, an extra measure of maturity from an already seasoned act. Perhaps it has something to do with selling out London’s Wembley Arena and appearing in the Olympic opening ceremony in the months since. They are a national treasure in England, and their nonstop touring schedule has earned them a loyal following here in the States, as well. Lucky for us, they have not yet graduated to arena shows here; we still get to enjoy them in the intimacy of medium-sized venues like Ram’s Head Live! and the TLA.
The tour concluded with shows 1,281 and 1,282 on Saturday and Sunday nights at New York’s Webster Hall. Turner noted that Sunday night, the final night of this tour, was their single biggest U.S. headlining show to date. The band will head to Burbank, CA for the month of October to record their next album with Rich Costey, whose credits include Nine Inch Nails, Muse, and Interpol.
His fans revere Turner as a songwriter and lyricist, and the buzz in the crowd in Baltimore was one of excitement bordering on impatience for the new album’s anticipated spring 2013 release. The track listing for the album is being culled from a cache of about 25 songs, several of which (“We Shall Not Overcome,” “Wherefore Art Thou, Gene Simmons,” and “Four Simple Words”) made the Baltimore setlist. The songs are road-tested – the crowd in New York already knew all the words to “Four Simple Words.”
To get a sense of the giant party that is Larry & His Flask, picture the combined instrumentation of, say, the Avett Brothers and Hoots & Hellmouth, then picture six dudes with righteous beards using it to play punk rock songs. The drummer stands to play (sometimes on top of the kickdrum), the bassist picks up his battered stand-up bass and throws it around the stage (also sometimes stands on it; he and the drummer are brothers), and the banjo player shreds chords as if he were playing a Stratocaster. They even throw in a few horns on songs like “Ebb and Flow,” adding a ska-like vibe and making it even more difficult to describe them to your friends after the show is over. Lead singer Ian Cook is an excellent guitarist, and the whole damn band is immensely entertaining. (They just headlined at the Fed in Harrisburg on October 10 with Willy Tea Taylor and additional support from Social Class Dropouts and Garrahan’s Ghost.)
After “The Flask,” as they are known to their fans, got the crowd sufficiently riled up in Baltimore, their banner was pulled from the back of the stage to reveal a Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls banner underneath, and the crowd pushed forward and braced themselves for the headlining set.
The set hit hard and fast and included plenty of opportunity for crowd participation in the form of singing along, handclaps, dancing, and even the requisite bit about the air harmonica, led by Turner during “Dan’s Song,” wherein he insists everyone hold their hands to their mouths and make harmonica noises (“Don’t be a hipster!”).
The show’s encore began with Turner returning to the stage alone. He announced that he was going to play a cover, from an album he’d loved when he was learning to play the guitar. He played a beautiful rendition of Counting Crows’ “Raining in Baltimore,” and the band joined him to end the evening with “Love Ire and Song” and “Photosynthesis.”
As is their custom, the band graciously hung around after the show to sign autographs and pose for photos. Turner is known for staying until he’s shaken hands with every fan who waits in line, and on Friday, one of those fans was a gal named Valerie. She was representing the fan blog Dear Frank Turner (http://dearfrankturner.tumblr.com/), a group that had compiled a book stuffed with over 100 letters from fans. She presented the book to Turner, who was genuinely touched and all but speechless as he hugged it to his chest.
It wasn’t the Olympics. It wasn’t Wembley, but show number 1,280 will be memorable to Turner in its own way. He is the sort of person for whom it’s easy to imagine all of the shows listed so meticulously on his website are memorable.
Frank Turner’s setlist from the Rams Head Live! on September 28, 2012
- If Ever I Stray
- The Road
- Peggy Sang the Blues
- Long Live the Queen
- Glory Hallelujah
- Reasons Not to Be an Idiot
- We Shall Not Overcome
- Wessex Boy
- Wherefore Art Thou, Gene Simmons (solo)
- Dan’s Song (solo)
- I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
- I Am Disappeared
- I Remain
- Four Simple Words
- Try This at Home
- I Still Believe
- Raining in Baltimore (solo)
- Love Ire & Song