Frank Turner performs pleasing 1,967th show in Athens alongside Arkells and Will Varley

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Frank Turner // Photo by Andres Alvarado

Those who are familiar with Frank Turner are aware that the performer keeps a steady count of how many shows he’s played. Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls played the quaint Georgia Theatre in Athens, Ga for his 1,967th show. Turner, who’s been touring non-stop for the last year or so, is promoting his 2015 album Positive Songs for Negative People. For this leg of the tour, Frank called on friends Will Varley and Arkells to serve as opening acts in what would be a fantastic night of music, dancing and hugs. Yes, you read right, hugs.

At 8 p.m. sharp, first act Will Varley takes the stage with just a guitar, a Heineken and his amazing wit. The English native recently served up his own tour that would make The Proclaimers proud, walking 500 miles across England’s south coast; stopping by several pubs and clubs to perform. Along his journey, Varley seems to have become much wiser and is widely considered among the best songwriters in his native land. His 30-minute act consists of about four or five melodies, each more deep in thought as they go. This November, Varley is set to release his third LP Kingsdown Sundown, packed with folksy numbers, profound insight, and lyrical witticisms.

Photos by Andres Alvarado

45 minutes later, Canadian alternative rockers Arkells take the stage. From the get go, Arkells hype the crowd with joyous melodies and a “let’s party” attitude, and they don’t just “talk the talk.” Front-man Max Kerman breaks into first track “A Little Rain” as he jumps into the crowd and invites two audience members to boogie down along his side as he performs. Once back on stage, Kerman is quick to remind everyone that at a Frank Turner show, you must come prepared to live it up, and he’ll be damned if he doesn’t get the crowd going.

Before going off, Arkells perform several high energy tracks during their 45-minute set, including hit tracks “My Heart’s Always Yours,” “Private School” and finale “Leather Jacket,” during which Kerman confesses his adoration for a charming southern accent, which understandably garnered enthusiastic cheers from the Georgia Theatre crowd. The boys bid farewell to the crowd, though not for long as they invite fans to get an even more personal experience to have a chat with them at the merch table. The ambiance is set for main act Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls.

Photos by Andres Alvarado

At 9:45 p.m., Frank Turner steps foot on stage by his lonesome. Decked in his traditional white shirt/black tie combo, he commences with proper greetings before breaking into an acoustic rendition of “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous.” About half way into the song The Sleeping Souls join Frank on stage to a huge ovation. Soon after, Turner and the Souls go on to perform lead track “The Next Storm” off their latest album. The energy that Frank and his bandmates exude is quickly felt among the crowd, with several members jumping and dancing throughout the venue.

The highlight of the show comes when Frank Turner performs hit track “Photosynthesis.” About two thirds into the song, Turner confesses that he wishes at times he was in a metal band. He expands by saying “just because I’m not in a metal band, doesn’t mean I can’t do metal things. Have you guys ever done or seen a wall of death?” (For those unfamiliar, concert goers will split onto either side to create a valley down the middle of the area in front of the stage, and will violently rush each other at the beginning of a popular song or particularly heavy breakdown).

Photos by Andres Alvarado

Frank gets the crowd to split into two groups, facing each other with the mentality of doing a wall of death run, though his upbeat sound might seem counter intuitive for such a thing. Right before the act is about to go down, Turner tells the crowd “Well, we’re doing something LIKE a wall of death, but with hugs!” Which is followed by an affirmation of “I’m not fucking kidding, I want all of you to run at one another and hug a fucking stranger, no hugging any loved ones or acquaintances, only strangers!” The crowd obliges as Turner then delves into the chorus of his hit single.

Throughout the two hour spectacle, Turner and the Souls perform a total of 23 songs. Among them, rockabilly Elvis Presley tribute track “I Still Believe” and hit singles “If I Ever Stray,” “Recovery” and finale “Get Better,” to which Frank Turner takes the chance to crowd surf and get even closer to his adoring fans. Frank Turner most definitely entertains and engages before bidding farewell in grand style. This tour is a must-see.

Be sure to catch Frank Turner with friends Will Varley and Arkells as they continue their tour through markets like Norfolk, Ithaca and Toronto. They’re more than worth the price of admission.

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