Live Review: Frank Turner And The Sleeping Souls / The Lottery Winners / The Wilswood Buoys – The Barbican, York 31.01.23

Phil Pountney

Frank was in town and I was very up for this one as it was the first for me since the Christmas festivities had passed, and as I walked towards the imposing Barbican I was joined by a healthy amount of fellow giggers because tonight ladies and gentlemen, the  Barbican was pretty much sold out for Mr Turner and his Sleeping Souls (except for one or two seats in the gods I’m led to believe by tonight’s friendly security team).

First up were an alternative folk duo from Mersea Island, the Wilswood Buoys, who came to rock York with just a couple of acoustic guitars and a harmonica, and rock they certainly did. Putting together an impressive set which was upbeat and full of feel good ‘island life’ chords and solos, the Buoys were an impressive start to the evening. The natural chemistry between them only added to the confident and happy charisma which was pouring off the stage and the injection of the harmonica introduced an additional dimension which was mesmerising and gripping. Intermittently throughout the set, I was found pondering the question as to how two guys with two guitars could keep so many enthralled and gripped as if hypnotised by a melodic spell, but charm us they did in abundance. The string work was on point, working the fretboards and twines with obvious ease, creating and conjuring up catchy, memorable and beguiling tunes on which the vocals perched with comfort and simplicity, all of which was delivered to the crowd with faultless precision. As their set drew to a close, I was certainly impressed with the wares that we had all been sold tonight by the pair from down south, a lasting impression had been delivered and these are certainly a couple that I am hoping to catch again, possibly when they tour with The Levellers in early March.

Up next were a self-confessed punk rock tribe from Leigh, Greater Manchester, the eccentric and certainly captivating The Lottery Winners. Now this is a band who certainly knew how to get the party started, fronted by the flamboyant Thom Rylance, they worked the crowd up into a frenzy with continuous interaction and unrelenting banter, most of which demanded responses from the crowd and all of which got ear shattering responses thrown back at them with gusto and enthusiasm. The set was brief, probably on account of all the stop starts which were built into the set to allow for the whimsical anecdotes and stories, but this didn’t detract from the power and precision with which it was delivered. The opener, ‘Headlock’ was impressive beyond its years, catchy and addictive it certainly laid out its objectives and intentions for the rest of the set. Katie Lloyd took the helm for ‘Sunshine’, which was beautiful and powerful in equal proportions, the vocals were enthralling and sat perfectly within the foundations of the track to create a version which I’m sure will last with many inside the Barbican for years to come. Stage right was well managed by the imposing Robert Lally who struck an imposing figure and conjured up impressive and striking guitar work from start to finish, seeming never to miss a chord yet deliver each and every note with pure dedication and commitment while the drumbeats from the back were worked with precision and power, beaten out with muscle and command, dispensed with an air of decadence and splendour. 

As the stage was turned around, the floor and balcony of this ‘amphitheatre’ were now a bustling and humming arena of anticipation and excitement for the main event. The lights dimmed and the stage was hit with sledgehammer-esque ferocity and authority, a touchpaper had just been lit and Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls had well and truly entered the building. ‘Recovery’ hit us like a steam train and the whole venue just erupted, welcoming their heroes with a welcome each and every one of them should have been proud of. The set then went from strength to strength, with the likes of a deafening ‘Try This At Home’, an impressive ‘The Road’ and a thunderous ‘Punches’. The set then took on differing angles, Katie Lloyd was welcomed to the stage to help with ‘Little Life’ and Frank then did a trio of solo renditions, ‘Worse Things Happen At Sea’ being my personal highlight from the segment. The spotlight being on Frank as a single unit was the perfect opportunity to really drill down and appreciate the talent that exudes from everything Frank Turner touches. 

The Sleeping Souls then graced us with their presence to close the set out before they appeared again for the encore, the vocal talents from Turner were well and truly enchanting all evening, hypnotising and attractive, rocky when commanded to be yet delicate and fragile when appropriate. The guitar was worked with love and affection by Frank, and the other string units backed up the lead with dedication and power, the thick strings of Anderson and the leaner strings of Lloyd added perfect companionship to the front and centre acoustic marksmanship. The group then signed off from the gargantuan set list and disappeared from view leaving the eclectic mix of punks, kids, couples and FT Veterans in awe of what they had just witnessed, what they had been a part of, an evening which had been one massive and colossal party which I, for one, was certainly buzzing from. 

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