Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

support Ducking Punches
author PP date 19/04/16 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Frank Turner is no stranger to Copenhagen, having played here multiple times in the past. In fact, his punk-fueled singer-songwriter troubadourism in support of Gaslight Anthem all those years ago was my first introduction to the man, and this magazine has never looked back since. Having opened the goddamn London Olympics in 2012, played on the main stage at Groezrock and at Wembley in London, it's great to see that the smaller shows like tonight's sold out Lille Vega still draw an equally passionate and humble reaction from him as they did back in the day. Those hardcore roots have got to got something to do with it. Along on this tour, he's brought Ducking Punches once again, whose vocalist Dan Allen performed solo at Amager Bio two years ago.

Ducking Punches

Ducking Punches

I've had the chance to follow Ducking Punches early on since their 2012 EP "I Am Arturo Bandini". Back then, it was just Dan Allen on his acoustic guitar, but he bore a remarkable similarity to Frank Turner's early career. A gravelly, roughened up voice, an unorthodox, aggressive approach to playing his acoustic guitar, his songs appealed especially for those of us who don't particularly enjoy singer-songwriter as a genre due to the lack of edge found in the songs. Not so with this guy (or Frank Turner), and it works live better than it does on record. Tonight, however, is the first time I'm seeing Ducking Punches with a full band, and I'm happy to report back it sounds excellent all-around. The coarse, whiskey-drenched voice is balanced perfectly against the rest of the band, allowing Allen's character to shine through, without him being drowned out by the instruments. They open with "It's Been A Bad Few Weeks" and "Cursed Luck", a great one-two punch from 2014's excellent "Dance Before You Sleep". Here, we are introduced to the folksy violin melodies but also to the great melodies of Allen on vocals.

"So, uh, Copenhagen is an expensive city, and we are really poor. We have nowhere to sleep tonight, so if there's a kind person out there with a floor for us to sleep on, it would help us out a lot", he pleas, helping underline how down to earth these types of bands usually are. Next up, they play a couple of tracks from their newly released third album "Fizzy Brain", where especially "Take Back The Living Room" shines. It is introduced by their bassist Sophie Porter as a track "the guys kindly allowed me to write" and tells us that it's about how difficult it is to be in the music scene being a girl. She ends a long speech with a defiant suggestion that if girls want to drive a van, play in a band, or in any other way be involved in the music scene, they should go for it, drawing huge applause from the crowd. Her voice is fantastic and adds another dimension to Ducking Punches' soundscape that should definitely be explored in more depth on coming albums, especially given how well-written the song is overall from a vocal perspective. Instrumentally, it's rather basic, probably since she is on the bass in a conscious choice for the rest of the bands not take away her spotlight. Either way, a great song and one of the highlights in their set tonight.

Ducking Punches

Turns out these types of introductions aren't a one-off tonight. "Six Years" is introduced as a song written in dedication to a friend who took his own life, followed by a lengthy criticism of the conditions in the UK that lead to suicide. Small anecdotes like these, however sad or melancholic, give the show character and keep us all interested. The band displays a good amount of small-ish energy on stage, but really the songs speak for themselves. "Big Brown Pills From Lynn" is awesome as the last song, featuring a to-be classic "We had all the attention, goddamn, it nearly killed us" chant that towards the end has all of Lille Vega singing along. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this band has some serious potential.

Setlist:

  • 1. It's Been A Bad Few Weeks
  • 2. Cursed Luck
  • 3. God Damn Coward
  • 4. Taking Back The Living Room
  • 5. Fizzy Brain
  • 6. Greedy Bones
  • 7. Six Years
  • 8. Big Brown Pills From Lynn

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

A sold out crowd is all an artist could ask for, but really it's the product of hard work. Since his Million Dead days, Frank Turner has played 1878 concerts before tonight's showing at the 450 capacity Lille Vega, as he tells us in broken Danish after the first couple of songs. Those songs, by the way, are "Get Better", "Plain Sailing Weather", and "Try This At Home", signaling a show of strength given all three are among the best tracks from their respective albums. The draw the crowd into a small frenzy, with especially "Plan Sailing Weather" drawing sing-alongs from the crowd. In the meantime, Frank is bouncing left-to-right and back again like a Duracell bunny on stage, in constant movement that also includes some fairly high jumps. For an act driven by acoustic guitars, that's pretty good energy, I'd say.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

"The Next Storm" follows from the new album, but is not as well received as "The Road", where we hear tonight's first real sing along during the "To the east, to the east" chorus melodies. "Losing Days" picks the tempo up slightly after a slower cut, but it's not among the most interesting Frank Turner tracks, to be honest. "Eulogy" is funny because it's sung entirely in Danish - exactly as it was last time around (or maybe it was another one in Danish, but either way) - which draws some laughs from the crowd, especially when Kim Larsen is mentioned in the lyrics, which helps liven up the crowd again after a couple of lulls. It's good timing because "If Ever I Stray" is the track with the big "take me back to the English channel" sing along that everyone knows.

At this point, Frank pauses the show to split the room into different teams to introduce the other guys on the stage. He also uses the moment to get us to cheer whenever he raises his guitar neck, using it as an indication of when to sing "oooooh" during "The Opening Act Of Spring". This pattern is used throughout the night but feels a little forced to the seasoned concertgoer to be perfectly frank (heh heh, couldn't resist). Straight after, The Sleeping Souls exit the stage, and it's time for Frank to explore some of his material solo. "Tattoos", "Vital Signs", "The Ballad Of Me And My Friends" all follow in all-acoustic format, but none of these are particularly interesting I'm afraid, except for the ending of the latter part which is a signature Frank Turner moment with sing-alongs in the crowd. The feeling of a lull I mentioned earlier continues throughout the middle part of the set, where the songs are merely decent compared to the explosive an instantly catchy beginning, and the awesome ending which we'll come to soon. "I played in Århus last night", he begins, and the crowd boos him straight away highlighting the classic Copenhagen/Århus competitive spirit, before he continues with "You guys really stick together, huh?", dedicating the song to Ducking Punches.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

"Mittens" is okay, but feels like the show is on autopilot at this point. A brief snippet of "Ace Of Spades" by Motörhead is covered prior to "Josephine", which is where the show begins to pick up again. "Polaroid Picture" is dedicated to David Bowie, before we are introduced to a girl from London who is an old friend of Frank's now living in Copenhagen, and she is given instructions on stage to crowd surf through the crowd and back to the stage, high-fiving both a woman on the balcony and the bartender at the back of the venue before making her way back via the other side of the venue. "I know there aren't any people like that at my shows", Frank begins, just making sure none of us are groping her as she goes through the venue, drawing thunderous applause from the crowd as a result. Sad but true, there are some countries where this is not the case, so it's best to mention it on stage than be sorry later. The song is "Polaroid Picture" and she makes the whole round across the venue unharmed and without falling down, which is an awesome feat that serves to raise crowd energy at Lille Vega even further.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

"Photosynthesis" follows with its mass sing-along of "I won't sit down, and I won't shut up, and most of all I will not grow up" proving once again that this is the best Frank Turner song to date. Upon request, the entire venue sits down with the exception of perhaps one guy - even people at the balcony are sitting down - which is an impressive feat considering how stubborn Danish crowds tend to be like usually. "Recovery" sounds great, and on that note the band exists the stage for a brief, but mandatory encore, before Frank returns alone for "St. Christopher Is Coming Home", joined by his band halfway through. "The Way I Tend To Be" sounds great with its "I rememmbbbbber you" sections, but "I Still Believe" is the best encore song with its "Rock'n'roll" passages that are sung back loud and clear by everyone present. Finally, "Four Simple Words" finishes the set with Frank leaving his guitar behind to stage dive with the microphone and sing a verse while doing it punk rock style.

Overall, it's been a mixed set for anyone who's seen Frank Turner in the past. The beginning is explosive and energetic, but most of the middle part of the set is wasted on decent at best, average at worst songs that feel like Frank Turner on autopilot. His most interesting songs are still the fastest ones where he sets himself apart from other singer-songwriter driven bands, whereas many of the songs like "Mittens" or "Tattoos" just disappear into the grey mass of like-minded artists. The ending, as such, is where the second highlight reel arrives, making sure the night ends on a great note. Still, it's hard to ignore the 30-45 minutes in the middle of the set which neither drew big sing-alongs, crowd dynamic, or anything else particularly noteworthy to jot down in this review with one or two exceptions.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

This is, if anything, symptomatic of the weaker nature of "Positive Songs For Negative People", "England Keep My Bones" and "Poetry Of The Deed" in comparison to the first two albums and "Tape Deck Heart". All are decent albums, but the three aforementioned are hardly the ones that make Frank Turner fans tick. So in summary, if this your first Frank Turner show, it was probably awesome, but if you're like the undersigned, having seen him play six or seven times, this didn't feel anywhere near like the classic Groezrock showing in 2013 nor the support slot to Dropkick Murphys that year in Copenhagen.

Setlist:

  • 1. Get Better
  • 2. Plain Sailing Weather
  • 3. Try This at Home
  • 4. The Next Storm
  • 5. The Road
  • 6. Losing Days
  • 7. Eulogy (In Danish)
  • 8. If Ever I Stray
  • 9. I Am Disappeared
  • 10. The Opening Act of Spring
  • -- Frank solo --
  • 11. Tattoos
  • 12. Vital Signs
  • 13. The Ballad of Me and My Friends
  • -- Full band --
  • 14. Mittens
  • 15. Long Live the Queen
  • 16. Ace of Spades (Motörhead cover)
  • 17. Josephine
  • 18. Polaroid Picture
  • 19. Out of Breath
  • 20. Photosynthesis
  • 21. Recovery
  • -- Encore --
  • 22. St. Christopher Is Coming Home
  • 23. The Way I Tend to Be
  • 24. I Still Believe
  • 25. Four Simple Words

Photos by: Lykke Nielsen

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Legal

© Copyright MMXVII Rockfreaks.net.