Let’s face it; you can’t escape politics these days if you tried. But if you wanted to confront the new American political reality head on, with a shot of defiance served with a punk rock chaser then Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls musical therapy session at the Beacon Theatre last Friday was where you needed to be.
Opening up the night was one of Turner’s favorite bands, Canada’s own Arkells. And don’t think that this pop rock five-piece wasn’t going to weigh in on the state of our government you were sorely mistaken. The Hamitlon based band that brought their blend of workman blues that is slowly acquiring more pop riffs and spent a good deal of the night railing against Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her mission to turn American public schools into an afterthought. And wouldn’t you know it, they had the perfect rallying cry with “Private School,” a track that sums that up with the kicker: Private school kids life so simple / Born on third base thought they hit a triple.
But a political rant doesn’t mean much if your sounds can’t back it up. And judging by the crowd’s reactions to lead singer Max Kernan strutting back and forth across the stage while guitarist Mike De Angelis furiously belted out bold riffs, Arkells was doing a fine job of reinforcing their message. They went so far as to make one fans night when they brought him to play guitar with him, making sure he knew a d-chord. What fan doesn’t dream of that?
And continuing the theme of defiance was England’s own Frank Turner who opened the night with a solo acoustic performance of his anti-Trump anthem “The Sand in the Gears.” An old fashioned protest sing-along that highlighted his remedy of rage and punk rock ‘I’m not going to take this shit lying down’ with lyrics like: “We can’t just spend the next four years in a safe space I’m going to spend the next four years getting outraged So every single day let’s find a brand new way To let the motherfuckers know that we can’t be swept away I’m going to spend the next four years on the barricades.”
And from there the audience belonged to Turner. The only man I’ve ever seen who can make a short-sleeved button down look hard-core and not something your account wears under his polyester blazer while he’s trying to sell you on tax deductions and e-filing.
Turner is the consummate showman, with a story for every song. Whether it’s humble disbelief he’s playing the Beacon ten years after his first show in our city, that featured – by his own admission – 3 people (2 that were on the guest list) to wondering how Canadians put up with their arctic winters, you wanted to hear his tales almost as much as his tunes. Almost. And what tunes they are. They blend folk, country, and steady dose of punkish rockabilly that sound like the greatest bar band performer you’ve ever heard.
There were plenty of leaps and synchronized line shuffles with his excellent backing band, The Sleeping Souls. Turner ripped through over twenty songs over the course of the night, and somehow even when he slowed down it felt like he was at full throttle.
Turner made sure the audience knew his anger at what’s going on in America wasn’t done with his opening number. He told them he didn’t want this to be a political performance (too late!), but he’s always been about building bridges, not walls. And even before the show he was bridging the gap with his fans, taking pictures with all the lucky ones who managed to catch him hanging out by the loading dock. And there was never a sense of being forced to do so. He seemed to know how much of a privilege it is to go from a show of 3 folks to a packed house at one of New York’s most iconic venues.
I guess should admit, I hadn’t really paid much attention to Turner’s sounds before this gig. But I’m sold and am in total agreement with his opening words to the crowd at the Beacon: Can’t I just spend the next four years at a punk show? Especially if it’s one fronted by Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls.
Frank Turner Set List:
The Sand in the Gears
The Next Storm
I Still Believe
Try This at Home
Long Live the Queen
I Am Disappeared
The Way I Tend to Be
The Ballad of Me and My Friends
If Ever I Stray
Out of Breath
Encore: Love Ire & Song
Four Simple Words
Article: Omar Kasrawi