Review: Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls @ The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane)

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls played The Tivoli (Brisbane) on 24 November, 2023 - image © Clea-marie Thorne
With an insatiable passion for live music and photography adventures, this mistress of gig chronicles loves the realms of metal and blues but wanders all musical frontiers and paints you vibrant landscapes through words and pics (@lilmissterror) that share the very essence of her sonic journeys with you.

Self-proclaimed as "not a folk singer, but a punk-rock kid that got an acoustic guitar for Christmas," Frank Turner returned to Brisbane with his band The Sleeping Souls as part of his biggest Australian headline tour to date - The Never Ending Tour Of Everywhere.

Tonight (24 November) at The Tivoli, he has Mom Jeans and his long-time friend and touring buddy, Aussie born Emily Barker, joining in the fun.

I hate missing the support acts, so kudos to The Tivoli management and tour organisers for leaving doors till 7ish so me and other punters had a chance to navigate the Friday night chaos in the city that is hectic as hell at this time of year. I made it for the first act!

Emily Barker receives a welcoming applause from the gathering crowd. Standing at the mic stand under magenta spotlights, with her acoustic guitar and harmonica at the ready, she is grinning in return for the warm reception from fans and eager punters.

Barker may only be giving us a handful of songs, including 'Dear River', 'The Woman Who Planted Trees', and 'Wild To Be Sharing This Moment' but it is all she needs to do to woo us melodically with her tales and messages of dark matters.

Emily Barker
Emily Barker - image © Clea-marie Thorne

Yet it is also her hopeful lyricism, soaring with song, that is uplifting and inspiring our thoughts in between – it's almost a gentle push to rise beyond the quagmires of our individual and collective dilemmas.

Finishing with a bigger applause from the growing crowd and new fans in the room, Barker exits the stage leaving us to our first interval to fill our cups and discuss the brilliant talent we just witnessed.

Mom Jeans, from California, provide our second instalment of entertainment, and as they appear onstage, almost instantaneously, cheers are filling the room. It's safe to say they have a huge mob of fans in the crowd as they start with 'Shred Cruz' and 'Something Sweet'.

'What's Up' is next and it has the crowd jumping around. Singer-guitarist Eric Butler has the audience screaming: "I'm such a piece of sh.t. . . you hate me for it!" Butler is showing us he was born to be a frontman, commanding our constant attention and interacting with punters.

Mom Jeans
Mom Jeans - image © Clea-marie Thorne

The rest of the band are also pretty animated throughout their set that includes 'Hippo In The Water', the fan favourite 'White Trash Millionaire', 'Death Cup', 'Girl Scout Cookies' and 'Tie Dye Acid Trip'.

Collectively, Mom Jeans are playing like a well-oiled motor that's got a minimum of five gears that is making fans happy and winning over others in the crowd with their pop-punk and indie-rock magic.

The added variety of sporadic '50s doo-wop and rocker feels that infiltrate the often short and extremely tight, playful sounds (regardless of the lyrical content) is highly addictive. I'm enjoying all of their songs even when the pace winds down like with their penultimate number '*Sobs Quietly*'.

I'm finding the variety of the tempos and genres exciting, and whether the songs were from their album 'Sweet Tooth' or not, Mom Jeans is all ear candy tonight. After their final song of the set 'Edward 40hands', I'm left on an aural sugar high to join in the interval chit-chat while anticipating the headliners.

Turner from his latest album 'FTHC', is joined by The Sleeping Souls onstage and they swipe in hard throwing 'Punches' right in our ear holes, and after '1933' this spirit only escalates with 'Get Better' as energy grows and ripples from the stage and mosh pit, joined by the throat warbling of fans singing along.

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Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls - image © Clea-marie Thorne

Brisbane is made to feel special when Turner lets newer fans know he played his first ever Aussie show in Brisbane some 13 years earlier.

When introducing Callum Green (drums) to us, Turner is also giving us a 'stand up moment', as he shares how happy they are to be playing to us tonight, despite the 'gods' being against them making it here.

He explains that by 'gods' he means Virgin Australia, but realises that might mean that he worships Richards Branson, which is so far from the truth, followed by a few F-bombs thrown at Branson.

After 'Recovery', 'Try This At Home' and 'The Next Storm', Turner reminds us that asking for help is sign of strength not weakness. Of course this leads us to 'Haven't Been Doing So Well'.

Fans scream out and the band cuts right in with Benjamin Lloyd (guitar) helping Turner out with the song's first solo, which Turner told us was going to happen before Turner then has a crack on his lonesome for the second solo of the song. Yeah, Lloyd nailed it and Frank, well he went a'ight (wink).

Frank Turner TSS.2
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls - image © Clea-marie Thorne

'Plain Sailing Weather' is followed by 'If I Ever Stray', 'I Am Disappeared' and 'Do One'. Tarrant Anderson (bass), Matt Nasir (keys), Green, and Lloyd all get a special mention for playing it tight tonight.

Each band member got a little shine in their own right as the masterful musicians that help create the studio and live sounds behind the folk-punk bard we know as Frank Turner.

Talking bard, Turner's songs are dead-set personal and I am reflecting it is a heart-felt honour just to be here listening as he is introducing the next track as a song about his very much-loved mate, the late Scott Hutchison (Frightened Rabbit).

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Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls - image © Clea-marie Thorne

As if the crowd are mirroring my exact thoughts, they've gone pretty much quiet, except for the flock of oblivious tipsy squawking cockatoos at the bar; and Turner kicks into the dreamy 'A Wave Across A Bay'. 'Wessex Boy' leads us into what must be the second half of the set that is led by a solo triple treat from Turner starting with 'The Way I Tend To Be'.

As Turner introduces the next song, me and the punk dude next to me guessed that it would be 'Be More Kind'; we smiled that we got it right, but my smile faded to express my sympathies as he shared he'd not long buried a mate and this was played at his funeral. In those moments I got a glimpse of what he'd lost and a confirmation of the reach of Turner's music.

Finishing off his solos with full-throttle fan participation shouting "and we're definitely going to Hell, but we'll have all the best stories to tell," yes, it is 'The Ballad Of Me And My Friends' bringing musical sunshine into the room

Turner and The Sleeping Souls took us for dive into his "old sh.t", a swim through the more recent, and a plunge into the new tracks – all with lyricism spiced with self-awareness, raw honesty and profound inspiration, including 'I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous', 'Photosynthesis' and 'Out Of Breath'.

What's more exciting is that tonight, I can document a FIRST ever. Turner had a board/guitar malfunction that led him to perform 'I Still Believe' with an electric guitar. He confesses he has only ever played it on an acoustic/ acoustic-electric guitar – EVER!

To take an excerpt from that song's lyrics: 'That after all, it was rock & roll.' He's got a new story to recount when next introducing this one – such is the way with live gigs.

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Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls - image © Clea-marie Thorne

Turner and his band filled the air around us with all the right vibrations and the smiles evidence the nest of camaraderie in the room. However, when Turner is kind of shooting the sh.t in his songs (more spoken lyrics), it's like the rest of the crowd fades away and you're kickin' back with Turner sipping a whisky on the rocks taking in his life tales of loves, losses and triumphs, shared only with you.

Turner crafted us a stacked set list as the perfect gift for fans and we relished in them all. I mean, we can't even complain about the guitar tech issue because we got a full electric guitar rendition that had never been done before and may never be again!

These are the things that make the live experience so special and worth the effort to get out of the house and into a live music venue.

If you had made it to The Tivoli tonight, you would have witnessed Turner's raw vocals translating the rich lyrics with punch and emotion in a captivating live setting; all in a way that is satisfying the emotional and political intelligence of the collective punks in the room, which is easily inciting their participation in the raucous call and response offerings smattered throughout the set.

While, with just as much ease, he is conjuring harmonious (well, kind of) sing-alongs from the throats of all fans and even virgin punters (once they get the gist of it) with his catchy acoustic rock anthems and ballads.

After an energetic 'Non Serviam' and a rocking jam session version of 'Polaroid Picture' the anthemic punk vibes continue with the close-out song, 'Four Simple Words' that has Turner riding on the hands of fans in the moshpit with his roadie and security dutifully ensuring the mic lead stayed connected and he was returned safely while we all sang at the top of our lungs to the very end. It was simply, nothing short of glorious.

Frank Turner TSS.6
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls - image © Clea-marie Thorne

Turner's live gigs are bloody brilliant, no doubt about it. As Turner would say, "music is the thing that turns strangers into friends," so even if you rocked up to this show dragged along by your mate, wondering who the bloody heck he is, by show wrap up, I guarantee you're leaving his 2,831st show grinning on the outside and on the inside with a stack of new mates to drag you along to the next one.

More photos from the concert.

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