It’s been a while in the making but Frank is back at his spiritual home of Rock City in Nottingham. It’s a sold-out show, Rock City is rammed and we can’t think of anywhere we’d rather be than screaming along with Frank as he belts out his blend of sing-along punk-folk tunes. We’re definitely not dead yet.
Frank’s back catalogue of albums might be inconsistent, eclectic I guess some might call it. His live show is an energetic stomp through his most infectious punk-edged folk songs. The evening kicks off with the gentle build of Four Simple Words which takes the sold-out Rock City from a dull roar to a full-on riot in four minutes, straight into The Gathering which keeps the energy levels high before Photosynthesis takes things up to 11. We’re three songs in and everyone knows that we’re in for a hell of a night.
Frank’s live show experience is a very different thing to listening to his records; there is an energy that’s not conveyed digitally. There’s no mistaking this for a punk show, but it’s got that edge to it. The songs are faster than they should be and all the better for it. Frank’s fans aren’t singing those overly catching choruses, they’re screaming them for all that they’re worth. Nowhere is this more evident than when they start 1933 from his new record FTHC, a moderately upbeat affair on the record but turns into an absolute monster here at Rock City tonight.
Frank pauses for a while to talk about the song Miranda and his relationship with his father, who the song is written about, before tearing through If Ever I Stray, The Next Storm and A Wave Across a Bay. We’re halfway through the set and Frank is dripping sweat in torrents.
His now customary solo section is There She is, The Ballad of Me and My Friends and Be More Kind. The Ballad of Me and My Friends still stands as one of the highlights of my live music experiences. Some songs take on a life of their own, they mean things to people. This is one of those songs, you can’t help but feel it as the Rock City crowd overpower the PA screaming ‘And we’re definitely going to hell, but we’ll have the best stories to tell’.
With the quiet bits over, Frank’s band the Sleeping Souls return for a huge final part of the set, including the monstrous Non Serviam, which actually does make me feel like I am at a punk show. Thatcher Fucked The Kids also sees an outing, which I’ve not heard live in a while.
This is the best I’ve seen Frank and the Sleeping Souls since the 2000th show at Rock City in 2016. Seeing Frank anywhere is an experience, but here tonight it feels like something magical just happened. As Frank says, now who’d have thought that after all, something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all.
All words and images by Neil Johnson. More writing by Neil Johnson can be found at Neil’s archive. Neil is also on Instagram as @jonnokid and is also the co-host of The Monster Shop on Louder Than War Radio (LTW’s Metal Show).