Live Review - Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls @ New Theatre, Oxford


The experience of a Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls show goes far beyond merely attending a music gig. it is a night of pure entertainment and organised chaos, that shifts rapidly between the vibes of a folk gig at the local pub, a rebellious punk rock festival, and at times a comedy-game show.

The lyrics of Turner’s Balthazar, Impressario summarise the tone and success of the evening: ‘Always make them laugh, try to make them cry. Always take the stage like it's the last night of your life.’ Each guitar change over the extensive 23-song set-list delivers Turner’s enthusiastic performance of a difference genre and a different mood. From the bluesy-folky Peggy Sang the Blues, to the angsty, punk rock feel of Plain Sailing Weather, Turner satisfies every individual music taste and combines them all into a fast-paced light-show spectacular.

The title of his latest album, ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’, is brought to life in the parameters of his live show. Even though the album is created from the depths of Turner’s experiences of heartbreak, loss and recovery, every song is delivered to rouse a beautifully uplifting and unifying ambience. Each song is performed slightly above the tempo of the recordings, which is a little surprising at first, but ultimately enables seamless transitions from one song to another, so that nobody loses an ounce of anticipation or energy. The performance of The Way I Tend to Be, one of Turner’s most well-renowned songs, might have evolved into a whole band performance complete with mandolin, but rather anti-climactically continued as a one-man-and-his-guitar rendition. Still magical, though.

Turner’s choice to open the show with the patriotic strums of I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous  at first seems unusual due to its slow and sombre opening, but quickly creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and friendship amongst the all-age crowd whose rendition of the final lines of the song resonated beautifully around New Theatre. Whilst this concert is Turner’s biggest at Oxford so far, his humble and personable stage presence give the night a friendly pub atmosphere, in which the audience contribute just as much as the band to the electric atmosphere of the concert. The band, The Sleeping Souls, provide the show with comedic elements, including an over-chair race, game show theme tunes, an impromptu harmonica solo during Peggy Sang the Blues and ending with a classically punk-rock crowd surf.

Frank Turner in concert is an opportunity certainly not to be missed. No matter if you are into folk, blues, punk or indie, Turner’s fusion of mellow acoustic and electric creates a truly beautiful and inspiring evening of pure entertainment.