As fans of all ages poured into the sold out venue, anticipation steadily mounted for some of rock’s most celebrated live musicians, Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls. Although the night is to celebrate Frank’s sixth album Positive Songs for Negative People, some sport shirts from previous tours, proof that Frank’s ever-growing carbon footprint and notoriously astounding live performances pay off – clearly, Sheffield O2 is in for a night that will leave fans wanting more.
First to grace the stage is Will Varley, the seemingly hairier, acoustic guitar-wielding cousin of comedian Louis CK. Launching into the marvellously cynical Advert Soundtrack, Varley employed hilarious lyrics and gritty charm in order to seize the attention of the adoring crowd. Throwing in hard-hitting political songs alongside rib-breaking tunes such as The Self-Checkout Shuffle, Varley is a welcome breath of fresh air on the scene and this is hopefully just the beginning for the endearingly sceptical folk singer.
Skinny Lister burst on stage in a fit of gang vocals, accordions and furious strumming of strings. This Is War was a perfect opener – loud, vivacious and full of energy. This vigour remained throughout their set with front-woman Lorna Thomas dancing wildly on stage and Dan Grey crowd surfing whilst clutching onto his double bass. Trouble on Oxford Street was a highlight along with the crowd-raising John Kanaka, and the crowd were left in anticipation for Frank to place the cherry on top of what had already been a wildly entertaining evening.
Turner began his 1789th show as he meant to go on: loud, robust and thunderous. Opener Eulogy raised every hand, opened every mouth, and was roared back at the grinning songster with a passionate vigour that can only be found at a Frank Turner show. Embarking on a hefty 28-song setlist is no easy feat for the most accomplished live performers but Turner managed this effortlessly, expertly weaving in and out of ripened material and new releases, anthemic crowd pleasers and solemn solos. Wessex Boy earned an ear-splitting appreciation from the crowd and fans willingly allowed themselves to be tied into Turner’s ridiculous calls for star jumps during the chorus of the undoubtedly popular Recovery. The on stage quips between Frank and The Sleeping Souls immersed fans into a fiercely competitive battle of which half of the venue would be the most energetic throughout the night, and everyone obliged in sitting down and standing up to Photosynthesis.
The elated mood was momentarily punctuated at Frank’s mention of the previous week’s attacks in Paris. He dedicated St Christopher is Coming Home to his friend Nick Alexander, telling the crowd to ‘value what you have, take care of each other and put the petty bullshit aside.’ The crowd were just as chillingly silent during his tear-jerking solo of Song For Josh. It’s a testament to the fans that they allowed Frank to have these touching moments of grief with a polite, knowing stillness before erupting into a frenzy of supportive cheers.
Perhaps the most magical thing about the evening was that the entire venue was united under Turner’s thumb. The tireless energy which both fans and performers poured into the set was almost tangible, and this was underpinned with closer Four Simple Words. A crowdsurfing Frank joined frenzied fans in riotously culminating the evening and not a single person stood still as the songster left the stage to a deafening rumble of cheers. It’s clear that Turner has perfected the art of live performances – not a single face leaving the O2 embraced the cold November air without a sweaty forehead and a satisfied grin, anticipating Frank’s inevitable seventh album when they get to do this all over again.