Montreal was clearly chomping at the bit to go see Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls. The show had been sold out, so we all squished like sardines in Corona Theatre with eager anticipation. This was not surprising as my social media had blown up the day before with friends from Toronto proclaiming it a show that shouldn’t be missed. Trish, one of my best friends and my roommate, had come to watch and provide me with colorful commentary that only a hardcore fan could offer. I had to wonder, though, “Is this guy is going to live up to the hype?” The answer, my friends, is a resounding yes, and then some! Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls was easily the best live act I’ve seen this year.
What made the night all the more exciting was how the opening acts seemed to give dear old Frank a run for his money! Bad Cop/Bad Cop were like The Runaways if every single member had been Joan Jett. The all-female band’s ferocity was only matched by their down-to-earth personalities. Their brand of gritty, no-bullshit punk rock infused with catchy hooks and three-part harmonies was just the adrenaline rush that the crowd needed. What made them so endearing as a live act was how apparently they loved performing and playing together as a band. All THREE frontwomen had an equal amount of time on lead vocals, and they switched it up every song so that it was always fresh. You could especially feel the love when a cake was brought out for vocalist and guitarist Stacey Dee as we all sang “Happy Birthday.”
The next act, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, really caught me by surprise. All six men (besides front-man Sam Coffey) walked onto the stage with denim jackets. Coffey was wearing what could best be described as a cape. I in NO WAY expected them to be a happy-go-lucky rock band and in fact Judas Priest aficionados. They instead looked like the kind of band that would give you a hug after a set. If you are a fan of 70s arena rock and new wave, then these guys will totally be up your alley. Sadly, the reason for this is because a lot of their material sounds eerily similar to a lot of classic rock radio staples. I mean, it made for a fun game between Trish and I. “Oh I hear Thin Lizzy!” “Oh man, they are doing Cheap Trick!” The crowd-pleasing “PhD” sounded EXACTLY like The Who’s “Baba O’Riley!” Considering how bloodthirsty the music industry is, they should probably watch out for any impending lawsuits.
Then came the man of the hour and I only have four simple words for him and his band: THEY WERE FUCKING AMAZING! Seriously, if you want to know what a real performer is, you’d better take notes! I know I did! Frank Turner is unlike MANY other live acts because above all else he’s a master at connecting with the audience. He joked around with us like we were all his old friends, alluding to the romance of Titanic as he recalled his friendship with Sam Coffey. He poured his heart and soul out on the stage, with spit foaming out of his mouth because he couldn’t care less if he looked pretty or like a real star. He also incited a mosh circle, crowd surfed, and came down amongst us to dance with a wide-eyed middle-aged fan. You just KNEW that this wasn’t just another paycheck for him. In his words, the stage is where he feels most happy. How could anyone object?
Of course, none of this would really matter if the music wasn’t good. Frank Turner proved that his future legend status will be because of his live show. That isn’t to say that his recorded output isn’t up to snuff! It’s just that his raw energy and fighting spirit is better represented with his band The Sleeping Souls in a live setting. Fan favourites “Recovery,” “Long Live The Queen,” and “Photosynthesis” were on fire with sheer exuberance, and “The Way I Tend To Be” was stripped down, giving it an even more vulnerable and tender tone. It was the triple threat of “I Still Believe,” “Four Simple Words,” and “Polaroid Picture”, however, that brought the house down. The latter was particularly poignant as members of Bad Cop/Bad Cop and Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs came out to help the crowd sing along. It perfectly concluded the overall sentiment that Frank Turner and friends were trying to convey: be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind.
Written by Shawn Thicke
Photography by Eric Brisson Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson