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Definitely Worth It

March 5th, 2013

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – The Bowery Ballroom – March 4, 2013


Just one song into last night’s set from Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, and you knew everything you needed to know about the British punk-folk troubadour and his band. Within those first five minutes they went from a driving, anthemic sound to a slow, intimate one and then back again. Turner led the crowd in clapping during the bridge, and they handled the sing-along parts without prompting, all while he belted out storytelling lyrics with his striking voice. For all the punk-roots talk and drinking-song mentality associated with Turner and Co., there’s nothing messy about their sound. In fact, throughout the set, they were exceptionally tight.

Each member equally pushed along the songs even while a lot was going on. Drummer Nigel Powell pounded out often syncopated rhythms as he twirled his drumstick between hits. To his far left, bassist Tarrant Anderson managed to squeeze a full-body upright-bass sound out of his electric one, even as he constantly (and somewhat spastically) yanked the bass around in wild directions. There was plenty of piano and guitar from Matt Nasir and Ben Lloyd, who hit their stride early during “The Road.” During the first half of the set, the band’s folkie side sounded so good it sounded like there was a phantom banjo or mandolin accompanying the music—and sure enough a few mandolins made it into the latter half.

Like an athlete warming up to perform, Turner’s voice got better throughout the set as it picked up some grit from the wear and tear of being stretched so far. And while the themes of his lyrics (hope, loss, self-doubt, recovery) aren’t too different from those other artists use, Turner and his band package them in what is maybe the best sonic way. His literal phrasing makes everything relatable, even if it’s often specific to his experiences growing up outside of London. That pays off when he sneaks in a lyric that is less storytelling and more reflection, like during “The Real Damage” when he questions with a yell: “Is any of this really worth it?” —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Hilary J. Corts | www.hilaryjcorts.com