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Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls Concert Review

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
June 21st, 2018
The Truman - Kansas City, MO

Frank Turner
English singer-songwriter and punk rock ambassador Frank Turner and his band of Sleeping Souls returned to Kansas City in June, bringing with them nearly two hours of material that preached the importance of kindness and the healing powers of rock-n-roll. Many musicians have something to preach about, but Turner seemed far more equipped to do so. He and his band donned suit jackets, ties, and button-ups, and Turner's charming demeanor and knack for riling up a crowd certainly didn't hurt either. The banter between songs and lyrics from his new album, "Be More Kind," were far from radical and often sounded similar to milquetoast quips made by late night talk show hosts, but if anyone is likeable enough to succeed in the doomed effort of uniting Americans and pushing for an increase in civility, it just might be Turner.

The evening's setlist was expertly constructed, showcasing seven songs from "Be More Kind" and favorites from several of his past releases. Many rockers stumble when they decide it's time to incorporate electronic drums and other noises into their music, especially in a live setting, but such numbers from the new album were executed seamlessly. Throwbacks like the humanist hymn "Glory Hallelujah" and coming of age anthem "Photosynthesis" showed Turner and the band at their most energetic. Additionally, the hook of "I Still Believe" -- a tribute to the musicians that came before him -- rang through the warehouse like a football chant as fans swayed back and forth with their arms over each others' shoulders.

As the set progressed, Turner began to tread into some more mellow territories. Solo acoustic performances of "Balthazar, Impresario" and "The Next Round" showed his strength in writing narratives and more introspective compositions respectively, as well as his ability to craft a dynamic live show. Through blasts of melodic punk energy, moments of quiet, folksy balladry, and a crowdsurfing race featuring two members of The Architects, Frank Turner proved himself as one of modern rock's most impressive performers and then some.

Ben Nichols of Lucero
Memphis alt-country vets Lucero don't take too many risks in their music, most often opting to play variations on what guitarist/vocalist Ben Nichols called "sad bastard, drink yourself to death-type music." One risk they did take on this night, however, was playing their new album, "Among The Ghosts," in full before its release. The band's sturdy, solemn songs prominently featured Nichols' gruff vocals and shined brightest when pianist Rick Steff was tasked with solos and other flourishes.

The Menzingers used their opening set to flaunt their mastery of melodic punk catharsis. Influenced by groups like Jawbreaker and the nineties lineups of Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords, the band used power chords and Americana imagery to create their own type of sad bastard drinking music. Their urgency was impressive, especially for a band performing in front of an unfamiliar crowd and playing a style of punk that isn't particularly in vogue at the moment.

The show was opened by The Homeless Gospel Choir, the misleadingly-named solo project of Pittsburgh's Derek Zanetti. His half-shouty, half-whiny style of folk punk is inherently clever and political in nature; a majority of the early crowd laughed along with him and seemed thoroughly entertained. Zanetti preached kindness in a similar vein to what Turner would later in the evening, and if you could bear his often-grating vocalizations for long enough, most would feel inclined to take him up on his plea as well.

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