Frank Turner & The Sleepless Souls at Ottobar (Baltimore, MD 9/23/11)
I walked into the Ottobar in Baltimore knowing exactly what to expect from a Frank Turner show, for I had seen him about a year before as support for the Lucero and Social Distortion tour. That didn’t stave off my excitement any, though. If nothing else, it kind of intimidated me, because I was walking in off only eight hours sleep in three days, and I wasn’t at all sure I had the energy for it. (Turns out a couple of Jameson on the rocks cured that very nicely.)
Frank’s shows are notoriously high-energy, sweaty, and interactive, and this past Friday night’s show was no exception. With all the clapping, stomping, and dancing, I can’t help but be reminded of my church-going days as a child. To me, Frank’s shows have a revival-esque quality to them, right down to all the screaming, gyrating folks up front. I half expected to see some fainting or speaking in tongues.
Downright humorous, I think, considering neither Frank nor I believe in god (“Glory Hallelujah”).
Frank opened the set with “Eulogy”, a new one off England Keep My Bones, and played three of my other favorites off that album, “English Curse,” “Peggy Sang the Blues,” and the oft-overlooked “One Foot Before the Other.” Standards like “The Road” and “Substitute” also made an appearance, as well as Counting Crows’ “Raining in Baltimore,” the first song he “ever learned to play on guitar” and an obvious ode to the city in which he was performing and its current weather.
He closed the set with what I believe was the highlight of the evening: a cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” He returned with three songs for the encore: Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” “The Ballad of Me and MyFriends,” and my favorite song by him of all time, “Photosynthesis.”
Charismatic. Charming. Talented. Ultimate showman. To me, these are the things about Frank Turner that make him so great. Yes, the lyrics are inspiring and thought-provoking, and the music definitely makes one want to “get up and get outside” and live life to the fullest, but to me, it’s those qualities – charisma, charm, talent, and showmanship – that have earned him such an incredibly loyal and passionate fan-base.
The best thing about Frank Turner is Frank Turner.
Photos: Clayton Carlson.