Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls prove they are the best live ticket around with an exuberant performance at the House of Blues in Anaheim.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls spent two hours filling the House of Blues in Anaheim, California with music and passion and optimism and goodness.  Frank has seemingly unlimited energy that keeps increasing as the show goes on, building up to fever intensity all the way until the show closer, “Four Simple Words,” where he leaps into the audience and crowd surfs while still singing.

I marvel at the people at a Frank Turner show.  The audience is fully engaged with much fewer than average audience members trying to take cell phone photos or shooting piss poor video for YouTube.  Just about everyone in the room seems to know every word to every song.  Frank’s audience clearly adores him. 

Much of that stems from Frank demanding a lot from his audience.  He demands your attention and demands that everyone be nice to each other and treat each other with respect.  At a show in Los Angeles earlier in the week, he threw out an audience member who was obnoxiously harassing others for much of the evening.  You don’t pull something like that at a Frank Turner show.  He also demands people sing along, saying “If you are fortunate enough to know the words to a song, you have to sing along.”  And dance….you don’t go to a Frank Turner show and not dance.  It’s just not done.  He will call you out.

All of this creates something very special, an audience that is fully present in the moment, fully part of the show, tapping into and feeding back that immense energy. 

Frank seems to take a personal interest in his fanbase, announcing one fan 50th show and another fans 70th, saying goodbye to a third who was at their last show.  He not only knows how many shows they have been to, he calls them out by name.  This is more than just a musician and his fans, this is a community, a family.  A good example of that community is the Frank Turner Flag, which has been to every single Frank Turner show on this tour, carried lovingly by fans from one show to the next.  It even has its own twitter handle. 

The Anaheim show started off with the slow, deliberate tones of “Eulogy” before jumping into the high energy intensity of “Get Better,” off of his new album, Positive Songs for Negative People.  His 29 song set ran the gambit of his full catalog, dusting out a few rare tunes.  One of the coolest things about a Frank Turner show is how he varies his set list night after night, keeping it interesting for those who see the show multiple times.  He even took care to not duplicate any songs at an in-store appearance at Fingerprints Records earlier the same day. 

Mid-set he slowed things down a bit, allowing the audience to catch their breath as he performed a few songs solo, accompanied by his acoustic guitar.  At the Anaheim show, those songs were “The Ballad of Me and My Friends,” “Imperfect Tense,” and “The Fastest Way Back Home.”  The Sleeping Souls then returned to the stage to rip through the rest of the set, ending on an impossibly high note with an encore that consisted of “The Angel Islington,” “The Way I Tend To Be,” “I Still Believe,” and “Four Simple Words.”

Shout out to the Sleeping Souls, the fantastic backing band who complement Frank’s boundless energy with their own.  Tarrant Anderson is the most entertaining bassist I have had the pleasure of seeing perform and matches Frank’s intensity with his own.  Ben Lloyd’s leaps and twirls and killer guitar chops keep the energy balanced on both sides of the stage.  And speaking of balance, let me also shout out the lovely, symmetrical stage design.  It looks fantastic with each band member evenly placed before a positive or negative sign, and you can tell someone took great care to get the look exactly right. 

Frank Turner was preceded by Skinny Lister,  a six-piece British folk band fronted by Lorna Thomas, a lady with her own incredible energy.  Their show complemented Turner’s well, bringing up the energy in the room with a fun, lively set of sing-alongs.  Highlights of their set included double bassist Michael Camino crowd surfing along with his double bass, and Lorna, coming into the crowd to waltz with as many audience members as she could.   

Normally the show would be opened by Beans on Toast, but House of Blues, Anaheim is on Disney property, and they nixed his performance, possibly because many of his songs contained the F word in their title, or maybe because of a pro-MDMA song in his catalog.  In honor of Beans on Toast, Frank Turner threw a drug song of his own, “Imperfect Tense,” into his set list that night. Koo Koo Kanga Roo filled in as openers in Anaheim, with a set of comedic dance rap that played like Yo Gabba Gabba for adults, ending their set with the audience under a giant Gymboree-style parachute.

Frank Turner
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The Sleeping Souls
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Skinny Lister
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KooKoo Kanga Roo
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House of Blues, Anaheim
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Frank Turner Tour Flag
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