Live Review: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls + William Elliott Whitmore + The Smith Street Band – Amplifier Bar, Perth (09.05.2012)

Frank Turner’s Australian tour rolled into Perth this week, bringing with him friends old and new. If you doubt the power of rock and roll, you should really come to a Frank Turner gig. An undeniably charismatic performer, Turner is able to successfully bring together such seemingly disparate music lovers.

There aren’t too many gigs you can go to where a Bob Dylan song will segue into a punk song over the speakers. A Frank Turner audience is always an interesting mix, and the Perth audience was no different. Fresh from his headline show at Wembley Stadium, Turner took to the considerably smaller stage of the Amplifier for an intimate and memorable show, which will surely be one of the highlights of the year.

Melbourne’s The Smith Street Band kick started proceedings. Barely minutes after the doors opened, the band played to an attentive crowd that grew in numbers throughout. Frontman Wil Wagner’s agitated delivery made for fascinating viewing, as the band powered through a fairly high octane set. Wagner delivers his songs in an almost spoken word style, putting quite a bit of emphasis on the lyrics. A strong opening set, featuring some very catchy songs like the excellent “Sigourney Weaver”.

Next onto the Amplifier stage was Iowa’s very own William Elliott Whitmore. Armed with a banjo, kick-drum, two beers, and a whisky chaser; Whitmore cruised through a set that was full of charm and brilliance. With plenty of banter and conversation between songs, Whitmore was clearly relaxed on stage, playing tracks predominantly off his previous two records, Field Songs, and Animals in the Dark. The sound quality for this set in particular was near perfect, and gave the songs an added atmospheric quality. Having been a fan for a couple of years now, it was great to finally get a chance to hear these songs live, and even better to find that Whitmore more than lives up to expectations as a performer.

After the shortest of waits, it was time for Frank Turner to take to the stage with his band The Sleeping Souls. Whilst this was Turner’s third time in Australia, this was the first time that he’d brought his backing band with him. Taking to the stage to the opening strains of England Keep My Bones opener “Eulogy”, Turner and his band launched into a set that was varied, exciting, and ultimately very memorable.

Crowd favourites like “Reasons Not To Be An Idiot” and “Photosynthesis” rubbed shoulders with new tracks like “Glory Hallelujah” and “Peggy Sang The Blues”. There was also the inclusion of some newer than new songs, with Turner previewing some new material, with the most memorable being “Wherefore Art Thou, Gene Simmons”, and “Four Simple Words”, the latter mostly for the chaotic moshing that ensued. There were even a few covers, namely Billy Bragg’s “A New England” and Queen‘s “Somebody To Love”.

On the whole, there was a great atmosphere throughout the night, and even the actions of a small minority of the crowd did little to dampen the mood, with nearly everyone in the room singing along to pretty much every word of every song. All in all, it was a fantastic performance from Frank and the band, with the show already a contender for the best of the year. I left the show hoarse, slightly deaf, but extremely happy.

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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.

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