“And the aching amplitudes that set our needles all a-flickering,
And help us with remembering that the only thing that’s left to do is live”
(I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous ~ Frank Turner, 2008)
When I sat down yesterday to write this post about why I can’t get enough of Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls shows, I thought I had already worked out what I wanted to say and that the post would be easy to write. Until writing my thoughts down made me think some more and made me turn thoughts around in my mind and examine these thoughts and feelings more closely. After exploring some of the things I haven’t consciously considered before, I knew I had to start over. So here I am. Again.
In less than a week I’ll be dancing and singing in front of the stage at Usher Hall in Edinburgh at my 20th Frank Turner show! Twenty shows in just a little over three years. Which is all kinds of crazy! To me anyway, because I’ve never been part of the “live music scene”, if that’s the right term. Going to see live music wasn’t and still isn’t something I do all that regularly. Since I was 16 I’ve gone to see the occasional shows of singers/bands I like. But even if I was a big fan of a band I only ever saw one show of a tour or maybe two if they were scheduled some time apart. I did some crazy and slightly expensive Roxette-related stuff back in the day (mid – 1990s), but that was nothing compared to what I did because of my love for Frank Turner and his music and his shows.
In the past 39 months I’ve seen Frank play 19 shows in 11 different cities in 4 different countries. Only 7 of those happened in driving distance from where I live, so on 12 occasions I had to pay for an overnight stay. I travelled hundreds of kilometres inside of Germany, drove the 300 km to Luxembourg twice, crossed the Channel on two occasions to see Frank play three shows in London and earlier this year hopped on plane to Sweden for a small gig in Stockholm.
Why, you might ask. Why do I spend all this time and money? Why have I seen him play seven times this year alone, which is twice as many shows than I’ve seen from other artists in a regular year in my “pre-Turner-life” ? What on earth is so special about this guy and his shows?
The way I’ve figured it out last night there are basically four reasons.
The first one, of course, is my immense love and admiration for his music and his lyrics. I think I’ve written more than enough posts about why some of his words mean so much to me. It’s always lovely to hear these words sung live from the man himself and to be able to sing along and to feel all the feelings. To share this joy and love with the people around me, who sing and dance along as happily as I do. To know that I’m not the only one crazy about his music. To feel some connection with the folks around me, but also with Frank up on stage. It all makes me feel more alive in a way.
Another reason definitely is, that Frank doesn’t play the same set over and over again on a tour or even part of a tour. He plays different songs during his solo set in the middle, he usually changes the first encore and often enough 1-2 songs in the set are exchanged or switched. You’ll never hear the same set two nights in a row, which makes his shows surprising and exciting.
Fun is another key element of Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls shows for me. The fun stems from the way Frank and the guys interact with the audience and make the audience an active part of the evening. This point was driven home to me last week, when I’ve been to see Tom Odell play the Palladium in Cologne. Tom was impressive on stage in the way that he has a great voice and his songs sounded amazing. But he rarely interacted with the audience. Yes, he said “Good evening Cologne. It’s great to be back” and at one point told a story before a song and during the encore of course he said something like “Thanks for coming, Till next time” and maybe a bit more. But all in all I felt like all I did that night was watch Tom Odell perform on stage. Which in a way of course is what a live concert is about: Someone is performing songs on stage and that’s basically the only thing we actually paid for.
It might be unfair and a bit harsh, but to me it felt like Tom would have done the same excellent performance – musical wise – in a TV studio with little or without any audience. He did his thing on stage and we were watching him do it. Maybe it felt different for the hardcore fans in front of the stage. I don’t know. I just realized that Frank totally ruined me in that regard ;-) Because he and the Sleeping Souls never make me feel like I’m just watching them do “their thing” on stage. Far from it. The way Frank talks and interacts with his audience, always make me feel like I – as part of the audience – am an essential part of the evening. They make me partake in sing-a-longs, make me clap and dance, sit down & stand up, do ‘Jazz Hands’ and make me try my best to beat Team Ben (because I’m always Team Tarrant *g*).
It always feels good to not just watch and listen to the performance on stage, but by being an active part of the audience turn these shows into the wonderful happy evenings they always end up to be. And Frank and the guys always let us know how much they appreciate us being there and doing the things we do. Because we’re all doing this thing together. And that makes me feels good. Accomplished in weird kind of way.
Last, but definitely not least, is what I’ve realized last night: That by doing my tiny part in creating these happy evenings, I feel like I’m able to give back to Frank a bit of what he has been and still is giving me with his music each and every day. So it comes back to reason #1: how much Frank’s music means to me. But also how much I want him to know how much his music means to me. How much I love and appreciate and in big parts adore it. To let him know to what extent some of his music and by now also many memories of his shows help to cheer me up and get me through my darker days.
It’s not easy to find the right words to describe the impact his music has on me, neither in a blog post or even in the occasional mail I have sent him to let him know how much I appreciate a particular song or show. I don’t want to harass him with too many fan mails anyway. And it’s downright impossible for me to tell him in person, even if I’m lucky enough to catch him after a show every once in a while. Because my thoughts and feelings about his music are kind of personal and not always easy to put into words, especially not when I’m a nervous mess because he’s there. Standing right in front of me. Talking. To me! ;-) I guess, what it comes down to is, that I want him to know in the most unobtrusive way, how much I appreciate all that he is doing. And I guess, I hope by coming to his shows and doing “my part” I manage to do that. And also have tons of fun doing it, by dancing and singing along to my favourite songs. Win-Win for both of us, I’d say.
And that’s why I can’t wait for show #20 and many more after that…