Tuesday 7 February 2023

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls / The Lottery Winners / Wilswood Buoys - Northampton Roadmender - 6th February 2023

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls' Never Ending Tour Of Everywhere rolled into the legendary Roadmender in Northampton on Monday night for the 2,737th gig of Frank's career. A sold-out crowd revelled in a massive career-spanning twenty-six song set that ranged from frenetic punk rock to quiet acoustic touching most bases in between. Impressive support was provided by The Lottery Winners and Wilswood Buoys.

Nepotism is an evil thing in the music business. We're not sure what the exact phrase is for supporting your neighbours, but it's clearly not a bad thing. As Frank later explains, when he moved out to West Mersea a few years ago from London, his neighbours happened to be musicians. They became friends and Frank produced their album A New Beginning and then brought Wilswood Buoys out on tour with him. 

Josh and Jay's set, which seems to feature Josh's love life very heavily, goes down a storm with the already packed crowd with bouts of clapping along to songs most would never have heard prior to tonight. With just two acoustic guitars, played at every speed from breakneck to snail's pace, sharing vocal responsibilities either individually or together, they make the sound of a much bigger set of musicians. They change pace effortlessly mid-song on the likes of Leave This City, Change and final track Save The Queen.

The Lottery Winners' star is very much in the ascendency right now on the back of a triumphant Albert Hall sell-out back in Manchester and the announcement of their new album Anxiety Replacement Theory and their own headline tour in April. They show tonight why they've reached the level they have - by going on tour with more established bands and taking their audience home with them at the end of the night, as the queues at the merchandise table that outstrip Frank's show. Fortunately Frank isn't the slightest bit put off by this, joking in his set that in three years time when they're headlining stadiums, he'll be phoning them to return the favour.

Thom is on sparkling form, his inimitable and unique line of chat may take up time that means they only get six songs in their half an hour slot, but he's absolutely charmed the Northampton crowd that didn't know them already into submission. The music though is the real star, and Thom wrote that as he remind us, except for when they fuse a bit of Happy Hour onto the end of Emerald City, one of their earliest songs and one where he, Katie and Rob all join in vocally. New single Worry is an ear worm and if it's representative of the new record will catapult them up the charts, whilst Start Again, Meaning Of Life, Much Better and the Katie-sung Sunshine and the response to them suggests that they'll be headlining and selling out spaces like this around the country on their own in the next few months.

You sense that Frank Turner would play venues of this size every night if he wasn't able to play those several times the size of it. For an artist who can sell out academies he takes great pride and joy in supporting independent grassroots venues in towns and cities that often don't make it on to touring schedules of major artists. He thrives off the connection, being able to see the whites of the eyes of his crowd and the energy that gets generated here that often gets distilled as the spaces grow. The Roadmender is a national treasure of a venue, an ancient CD and tape deck sits dusty and battered in the bar area and it may not have all the modern facilities of better-funded big city halls, but it's a glorious perfect venue for music, the sort we need to protect and save as gentrification hits our town and city centres.

Frank sets his stall out early, telling us that even though it's Monday he wants us to dance, sing and blow the roof off. He sets a few rules - don't be a dickhead, don't let your idea of fun spoil others (which with one exception where he has to stop between songs to calm down a fight), join in if you know the song and have more circle pits. He likens the show to us having a two-way conversation rather than watching a performance and that needs both sides to be part of the show. The Northampton audience is compliant - they bounce through most of the set, the middle of the crowd a mass of seething bodies and respectfully quiet during Frank's acoustic three-song interlude ("the Musician Union's mandatory break" for The Sleeping Souls) and A Wave Across The Bay, the beautiful tribute to his late great friend Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit.

"We're going to play folk music, classic indie, pop, country and hardcore punk music" he tells us. The set leans heavily towards the latter and no one is complaining. The likes of Non Serviam, Punches and Untainted Love may not be amongst his best known songs but they set the crowd off every time the adrenaline kicks in, whilst the encore of 1933, Get Better and Four Simple Words saps every last bit of energy that anyone has left, even though it is a Monday night and cold outside.

The acoustic solo three-song section is made up of requests sent into him. He laughs that the first two of them - Little Aphrodite and Wisdom Teeth - are both older songs that were written before he met his now-wife, cogniscent of the fact his in-laws are in attendance tonight. Thatcher Fucked The Kids, an old song that feels very prescient today as another generation suffers under a Conservative government from lack of investment in youth, is bellowed back by eight hundred people at one with him.

You sense the joy in the room, the one fight aside, as he takes us on a journey from his very earliest songs through to the more recent. He brings Katie from The Lottery Winners out on stage for a duet on Little Life and he interacts with his band like the friends they are rather than musicians there to fill out the stage and illuminate his name. While he's often unfairly decried for not being punk and having left those roots way behind, Frank Turner is a guarantee that you'll have a good time, whether you know his songs or not and by the end you'll be singing, dancing, bouncing along and will leave the venue with a huge smile on your face. And that is what the very best and most important music is all about.

Frank Turner's official website can be found here. He is on Facebook and Twitter.

The Lottery Winners' website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

Wilswood Buoys are on Facebook and Twitter.


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