Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

support Andrew Jackson Jihad + Ducking Punches
author AP date 27/02/14 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

This is the second time in less than a week that I find myself in the company of singer-songwriters, and I must say I find the pause from my usual preference, heavy music refreshing. Tonight the man in question is Frank Turner, who as usual is to perform with his Sleeping Souls backing band, and who has brought two very hyped, similarly disposed artists along for the ride in Ducking Punches and Andrew Jackson Jihad. Amager Bio looks about half-full, but none of the evening's live entertainment seem to mind the situation much, which I suppose says a lot about just how down to earth this trio of musicians and bands really is.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

Ducking Punches

Normally Ducking Punches perform as a five-piece; their excellent new album "Dance Before You Sleep" takes advantage of the full band setup much more than in the past. Tonight, vocalist Dan Allen is performing alone though for some reason, so the songs inevitably sound like stripped down versions of themselves, which is especially the case with new material. It speaks volumes about the strength of these songs though that they still sound excellent without the additional instrumentation: "It's Been A Bad Few Weeks" and "Big Brown Pills From Lynn" in particular are the highlights tonight in a set that is characterized by casual chatter towards the crowd in between songs. He's joined on stage towards the end by Andrew Jackson Jihad's keyboard player to help out on a song, which helps paint a picture that Ducking Punches are probably a whole lot better when the full band is on stage instead of just Dan Allen. While the set is good, the spectacularly hateful Andrew Jackson Jihad and later Frank Turner outplay him significantly tonight.

Andrew Jackson Jihad

Following possibly the fastest switchover I've ever witnessed, the duo known as Andrew Jackson Jihad takes the stage for half an hour of amusing, schizophrenic folk-punk. I say schizophrenic, because the topics of which they sing, and the way in which they sing them are two vastly different things. The lyrics are full of tragedy, dark humour and, in some cases, psychopathy, yet AJJ deliver them tongue-in-cheek, and in a persistently uplifting tone. It's a fun contrast to hear verse like "Do you remember me? I killed your family, and now I'll kill you too." (in "Bad Bad Things") or "But there's a bad man in everyone, no matter who we are. There's a rapist and a Nazi living in your tiny hearts. Child pornographers and cannibals, and politicans, too. There's someone in your head waiting to fucking strangle you." (in "People II: The Reckoning") juxtaposed with the wide grin painted across Sean Bonnette's face, not to mention his Brendan B. Brown / Chris Conley style singing.

But far from being a superificial comedy act in the vein of, say, Tenacious D, there's relevance to what Bonnette and his compatriot Ben Gallaty (on keys & electric guitar) sing of, the heartbreak and darkness funneled into surprisingly poetic lyricism and, above all, extremely catchy songs. It is a bit silly of course, and not all songs are quite as immediate in their rewards as the two mentioned above, but judging by the profuse applause between each song, and the smile on virtually everybody's face, few are left unentertained by the unorthodox take on folk-punk that is Andrew Jackson Jihad.

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Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

Though Frank Turner is no stranger to the Danish gig circuitry, having visited us under various circumstances (at least?) four times in the past four years - both as a headliner, and as support to bands like Dropkick Murphys, The Gaslight Anthem and Social Distortion. Still, from the very first song "Photosynthesis", which is met by an immediate and enormous singing response from the audience, there is the sense that tonight's performance has the makings of a special show. Using a sheet of Danish words converted into gibberish Turner can phonetically understand, he addresses us in Danish, telling us this is his, and his band The Sleeping Souls' 1538th concert, and apologising for his poor skills in the language. That he proceeds later to deliver "Eulogy" entirely in Danish, with fun injections like "Ikke alle kan være Kim Larsen" is even more impressive, and a strong signal of just how much Turner cares about his fans.

But before reaching that song - the beginning of a four-song solo set in the middle that also includes the excellent "Worse Things Happen at Sea", "Tell Tale Signs" and "I am Disappeared" - there's plenty of modern classics (bear with me here, they will be classics some day, surely...) like the stunning ballad "Plain Sailing Weather" and the faster, ridiculously infectious "Try This at Home" to be enjoyed in the company of a band which, unlike so many others that grace these pastures, aren't afraid to be intimate. In a display of exceptional dedication to his listeners, Turner even caters to song requests he received from Danish fans (one of them four years ago) by playing the aforementioned "Worse Things...", for which he initially requires audience assistance to get it right, and "Tell Tale Signs".

It's a warm and deeply personal experience that we are given, then; a show of an entirely different character than Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls' performance at Groezrock last year. And despite the fact that there are slight lulls and moments that aren't quite as scintillating as when tracks like the empowering "Glory Hallelujah" and "The Road" are aired for an audience roaring the lyrics back at Turner, or "Recovery" and "I Still Believe" on either side of the encore; there's so much energy and passion to this show that such minor issues are easy to ignore. Frank Turner is, to me, the equivalent of Bruce Springsteen to fans of punk rock, his uncanny ability to write profound and poetic music that every person with thoughts and feelings can relate to, and the fact that people from all sorts of scenes are assembled here in unison, and that virtually everyone is having a visible blast, is a strong testimony to that. It isn't quite as triumphant as that Groezrock show, but tonight we are given the opportunity to see a different side to Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls - and feel much closer to the band.

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Setlist:

  • Photosynthesis
  • Plain Sailing Weather
  • Peggy Sang the Blues
  • Losing Days
  • Try This at Home
  • Glory Hallelujah
  • Reasons Not to Be an Idiot
  • The Way I Tend to Be
  • Wessex Boy
  • Eulogy (solo, in Danish)
  • Worse Things Happen at Sea (solo)
  • Tell Tale Signs (solo)
  • I Am Disappeared (solo)
  • The Road
  • If Ever I Stray
  • Polaroid Picture
  • I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
  • One Foot Before the Other
  • Long Live the Queen
  • Recovery

--Encore--

  • The Ballad of Me and My Friends (solo)
  • I Still Believe
  • Four Simple Words

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