Live Review: Frank Turner + Emily Barker + Mom Jeans – The Astor, Perth (28.11.23)

The AU review has a long history with Frank Turner, but I have to admit that despite loving punk rock–like A Day To Remember, The Bouncing Souls, and The Story So Far– I hadn’t heard of him until this tour crossed my desk. But after my night at The Astor, I’ve heard of him alright, he’s even still ringing in my ears.

Being something between a folk singer and a punk rocker, Frank Turner (and The Sleeping Souls) had the bright idea to bring a folk singer and a punk rock band around the world as their openers. They are melancholy melodist Emily Barker and the jumping, thumping Mom Jeans. They’re a pair of openers that don’t just complement The Sleeping Souls, but give them a run for their money– watching the crowd, more than a few came for them alone.

Emily Barker the astor

Emily Barker had the tricky job of warming a cold Tuesday night crowd, but along with being a singer, songwriter, guitar strummer, harmonica-player, and a WA local, she has the charisma of an entire ensemble too. Sitting under a small spotlight, she told a few jokes with a fox’s grin, sang a handful of songs – “Dear River”, “Machine”, “The Woman Who Planted Trees” – and invited a local on stage for her duet “Fields of June”. With only a short time on stage, she was the fire starter that kicked off a great night, and her warm, elegiac songs added a delicious smoky aura to the air.

Mom Jeans the astor

Mom Jeans, on the other hand, cut through the air with the exact opposite– an electric, explosive alt-rock set. Immediately, the crowd was cheering, waving, and clapping– in large part thanks to bassist Sam Kless’s great crowd work. They opened with some of their high-energy hits– like “What’s Up?”, “Edward 40hands”, and “White Trash Millionaire” – then moved into a few off their new album Bear Market. Mom Jeans were high-powered firecrackers who played nonstop and only slowed for the opening of “hippo (in the water)”. If you know the band for their pretty chill hits like “Death Cup” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. My GPA”, you’d have been blown away by their electrifying stage presence– and there were many new converts among the crowd that night.

If the night was just Emily Barker and Mom Jeans, you wouldn’t go home disappointed, but then there’s Frank Turner (and The Sleeping Souls). Nearly a decade after our Simon Clark said it, it still rings true – Turner is “An undeniably charismatic performer, able to successfully bring together such seemingly disparate music lovers”. There were card-carrying Frank Turner fans, headbanging teens, couples on dates, and even a kid sitting on his mom’s shoulders and playing with his dad’s mohawk. Everyone was there to see this UK folk/punk rocker and he was happy to oblige.

He gracefully apologised for his five-years-too-long absence from Australia, and stated his two rules. He might be punk, but he still wants you to don’t be a dickhead, and if you know the words, sing along. Now from the looks of the crowd, he didn’t need the first rule, but once he started with “Get Better”, it was damn clear that he didn’t need that second rule either. The crowd was singing loud and strong, and it continued through the hits (“Recovery”) and into the new album.

The album, FTHC, is Frank Turner Hard Core, and it’s a title that doesn’t disappoint. Written during some mental anguish, the album has way more crashing cymbals and punk spirit than you’d expect from a ninth album. And it’s clearly solidified as a favourite with the crowd that night, because they were singing along to “Punches” and “Haven’t Been Doing So Well” like any other beloved anthem.

And none of that is to underrate the Sleeping Souls. Not just content to keep the energy high and rock their hearts out, they each had a solo or two to gloriously shine. The Astor’s lighting crew made sure of that, saving the best, most brilliant effects for Frank and The Souls. I was told that Frank Turner always puts on a good show, and even after touring the rest of Oz and half the world, they did. Now they’re off to Hong Kong, and I’m off to listen to the rest of his discography.


Branden Zavaleta

West Australian Writer & Photographer