Review: Frank Turner @ Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver

Vancouver’s esteemed Commodore Ballroom, packed to capacity and vibrating with swollen hearts and sweaty heads, was treated to no less than a Springsteenian display of guitars and drums and desperate poetry by Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls.

It’s been a journey reaching through decades for Turner, who has morphed from hardcore punk to folk-punk troubadour to full-blown, bonafide Wembley Stadium rock star and back to his hardcore roots with side-project Möngöl Hörde, and he’s evidently found a way to weave the years into a throttling, cathartic joyride that spans six solo albums and counting. His latest, last year’s Positive Songs for Negative People, sums up his mantra rather coarsely in its title; Frank’s a negative guy who turns that sadness into beautiful, exploding romanticism via song and word, and his Vancouver show was an exercise in just that practice.

Careening onstage in a blaze of acoustic glory, Turner and his band scribed a vibrant thesis for the night with “The Next Storm,” with Turner belting in signature sing-song spirit, “I’m not going to live the whole of my life indoors, I’m going to step out, and face the next storm.” Frank has long traded in images of sunshine, positivity and hope in the face of strung-out, three-day hangover, manic-depressive blues, and that patch of green, green grass has long since turned into a dirt patch from being trod over time and again, but there’s a reason for it; the same reason he can sell out a theatre on the other side of the world. That dirt patch feels like home for a hell of a lot of people.

But this isn’t the same fresh-faced lad opening for The Gaslight Anthem at the exact same venue in 2009. This time, the headlining slot reads different, and so does Turner. Springsteen’s name was invoked for a reason at the outset of this article; the massive catalogue that Frank draws from was showcased through and through in a stampede-like slew of shock and awe, each dusty gem book-ended with a new cut off Positive Songs, clapped around the ears with “Glory Hallelujah” and polished off in dazzling style with England Keep My Bones favourites. It was sheer ecstasy; no stone left unturned, no song left unsung, no pore left unclogged with sweat, no vessels left unruptured with Frank roaring and jolting around stage like a man possessed. The show only ran around two hours, but the kinetic, vicious pace coupled with a neck-deep setlist left a staggering impact, rarely felt but for the Boss himself.

Complete with sit-downs, jump-ups, sing-alongs and just about any other interaction under the sun that can be prescribed to a folk-punk time signature, Turner’s show was engineered for an audience 10 times the size of the crammed Commodore. But the magic of Frank is that he’s not onstage at the Rogers Arena; he’s in a mid-size club venue, bellowing in your fucking face, telling you how badly he wants to dance, and to never grow up. And for the price of a 24, you could see the majesty, shabbiness, strength, hope and grit that Frank Turner offers, tied up neatly with a shit-eating grin and a middle-finger to the cool, sweet west coast skies.


For all features and interviews with Frank Turner, click here.

Review by Luke Ottenhof (@LukeOttenhof)

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