Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls – House of Blues – January 22/23, 2017

Show Type – Big Venue

For Openers – Will Varley, The Arkells, Masked Intruder

“You ever feel as if your mind has started to erode?” -Repo Man

This lineup had about as much variety as you can get at a Rock-n-Roll show, ranging from troubadour (Will Varley) to punk (Masked Intruder), with the Arkells sandwiched (both sonically and in order of appearance) in-between.

Will Varley started things off with his set of more-or-less traditional singer/songwriter folk music. Like other great folk musicians I’ve seen (Steve Poltz, Robbie Fulks) Mr. Varley had a great rapport with the crowd, weaving stories within and between the songs. The Sunday set included his paean to viral cat videos (Talking Cat Blues) but I preferred the Monday set that stuck with his more serious material. Don’t get me wrong, Talking Cat Blues is a lot of fun but King for a King sticks with you.

The Arkells were up next and didn’t disappoint. This is fast becoming one of my favorite bands, with the set on Monday night being my 6th time seeing them live (their show at Subterranean was actually one of my top 5 for 2016). Frank Turner calls these guys the best live band in the world and it’s hard to disagree. The joy that they attack every set with is contagious and songs like Hung Up really resonate in the current environment and proved to be pretty prescient given recent goings on.

The gatekeepers are keeping me out
Let me in
Yeah, who made you the president?

Masked Intruder seemed to be the “odd band out” in this lineup and honestly, the Sunday set left me a little cold. This punk outfit features each of the musicians wearing a different colored ski mask and a hype man dressed as a cop. The shtick is they formed while in prison and all the songs and banter play off that premise. That being said, for whatever reason the Monday set (while ostensibly the same) was a blast. The singer’s banter was funny at times (including his song intros) and the set had a lot of energy. The one down side is the Cop’s assless get-up at the end of the set will forever be burned into my memory.

Main Attraction – Frank Tuner and the Sleeping Souls

“You Gotta Agitate, Educate and Organize” -That Petrol Emotion

The thing about a Frank Turner show is that it’s about more than just the music. It’s about the communal experience. It’s about the community. Frank speaks to this often during his shows and its true (especially in this political climate). The Monday night show was 19th time seeing Mr. Tuner and the Souls and there is true sense of community. I saw the couple I stood behind in Milwaukee and Kalamazoo, folks I met at shows in Louisville and another woman who asked me “didn’t I see you at the Double Door?” Yep, that was me. Because most of the people at these shows are part of the community, the roar of the crowd singing along to every song really hits you. This was even more impressive given the number of people who already knew all the words to Sand in the Gears even though Frank had only released the song on YouTube a few days earlier.

While each of their shows is great, I have to admit that the Monday night show was the better of the two (seems to be a theme as every one of the bands seemed to be a little more “on” on this night. In the case of Frank and the Souls, the pacing seemed, for lack of a better word, more relentless. While both Frank and the Arkells confessed to a big night of drinking the night before (since they were in the same city two days in a row) you’d never know it from the energy on the stage. You know the place is rocking when even the security guys at the barricade are singing along! It reminded me of the show in Detroit when Frank covered Turn the Page and the security guard was singing louder than everyone else. Frank kept referring to the audience as “Chicago 2” and the house went nuts. It was great the way they switched up the setlist and the solo acoustic version of Josephine was transcendent. I will never think of that song the same way again.

Would You See Them Again? Rating: Definitely

Venue Notes: I don’t seem to see many shows at the House of Blues anymore. Overall it’s a pretty good for a larger venue. Good sound system and a decent sized floor area. The stage is elevated enough to allow moderately vertically challenged individuals like myself decent sight lines from the floor even if you aren’t right up at the barrier. One annoying thing that I experienced for the first time at this show is there are 3 or 4 tiers of General Admission. In other words, ticket simply termed “General Admission” doesn’t get you access to the pit in front of the stage (that would be “General Admission – Pit” general admission). Luckily the administration of wrist bands takes place prior to/separate from actual ticket taking/venue entry so I was able to use my Sunday pit ticket to get the proper wristband for floor on Monday night. Another somewhat annoying “feature” of this venue is ridiculous beer prices—in the range of $10 for a can of Bud Light. I know they are in it to make money, but come on!

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