Live Reviews

2023-01-21 – Frank Turner – KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton

Review & Photos: G. Rossington.

On one of the coldest nights so far this year and a queue stretching around the block to get in to the venue, KK’s Steel Mill is proving the place to be in Wolverhampton tonight as the modern living legend Frank Turner is headlining a show with his backing band The Sleeping Souls. Playing show number 2725 of his ‘Never Ending Tour of Everywhere Tour’, tonight has high expectations as it was one of the first on this latest run of dates to sell out – This may have been aided by the fact that it has been ten years and virtually 2 months since he last played in the Midlands City (23rd November 2012 to be exact).

The first surprise tonight is that since the last show I saw in this venue, the stage has been moved… it has been rotated 90 degrees and now runs alongside the large wall creating a more intimate setting, but yet making the room feel more spacious. The second surprise is that one of the two support bands listed has had to pull out due to the singer losing his voice, so tonight we are treated to an slightly longer set from The Lottery Winners. Thom Rylance leads the band with his brilliant northern comedic sense of innocence and confidence which seems to instantly win over the room. They play a great set; opening with ‘Headlock’ and ‘Favorite Flavours’, they drop in new single ‘Worry’ and a cover of The Housemartins’ ‘Caravan of Love’. They close out on the epic ‘Start Again’ which sees the audience joining in with the punchy chorus refrain. The Lottery Winners are certainly proving themselves to be a formidable live act right now.

In what feels to be as quick as a flash, the stage is reset and Frank Turner strolls out accompanied by his band to a sea of excitement from the packed room. They launch straight in to ‘Recovery’ and then there is no stopping him. Within seconds you can tell Frank is on top of his game, he’s excited to be here, there is passion in his voice, furiousness in his playing and an energy that is exhausting just looking at him as he bounds around the stage with gusto. He blasts through ‘Try This At Home’ and then addresses the audience as the band start jamming the next intro. He sets out the 2 rules for tonight (and every show he does) “#1: simple, don’t be a dick. #2: If you know the words, sing along!” and with a boom, the jamming launches in to ‘Photosynthesis’ and it feels like we as a room together are all flying.

Throughout the whole 26-song set, the band and audience are all in sync. If the songs are played faster, the audience are singing along at the same speed, if it’s a quiet and delicate tune, they are respectful and quite simply just mouth along with the words instead of trying to cause a fuss and out-sing Frank. One thing about a one of the Sleeping Souls shows is that it is always full of passion.

Every song is a tale of someone or something that has happened, a revolt against the state, an ode to a night out, married life or a tribute to a passed friend.

Just before ‘Punches’, Frank again addresses the audience, he apologises for the 10 year delay in coming back to Wolverhampton, but then pays tribute to the venue… “When I got this list of dates towards the end of last year, I was excited to see Wolves on there, but not only that, the venue being fucking KK’s Steel Mill! A venue named as a after one of my favourite guitarists ever, K. K. Downing! Not only do I adore that man, but they were my band! I grew up with them, I wanted to be them, and here I am now, in the venue owned by KK himself! What an honour!” Naturally this ignites a huge sur in appreciation from the audience and again it’s on with the show.

‘Little Life’ is a sweet ode to Franks new life having become married through lockdown, this flows seamlessly in to ‘Wessex Boy’ which is always a delight to hear performed live. The band then vacate the stage leaving Frank on his own with his acoustic guitar. ‘Journey of the Magi’ and ‘The Way I Tend To Be’ are stunning to hear performed alone with just the audience backing him gently. Next, we get a wonderful addition, a track that Frank had dropped from his sets for a long time but now, as the political landscape is, well, a mess, it seems right to bring it back – ‘Thatcher Fucked The Kids’ is greeted like an old friend and it’s message still as sharp as ever.

The band return to the stage and once again, with the velocity and sheer energy in the performance it feels like we are in another universe tonight. ‘Don’t Worry’, ‘If I Ever Stray’, ‘The Next Storm’ and ‘Out of Breath’ bring the set to an almost rowdy close. The final song is ‘I Still Believe’ which almost brings the roof off. Both band and audience again in unison and bouncing along.

The encore begins with a beautiful tribute to Frank’s great friend and former Frightened Rabbits frontman Scott Hutchison. The glorious ‘A Wave Across The Bay’ is impeccable, so many lyrics that are full of compassion and love. The lines “Goddamn I miss you man, It was just weeks before you left that we were speaking, I just wish that you had told me you were leaving, Before you walked your final mile” hitting hard right now.

‘1933’ and ‘Get Better’ also fill out the encore before a final and stunning closing rendition of ‘Four Simple Words’ is rousing and euphoric. If the already standing audience had not been doing so, there would have been a standing ovation as the band give their bows and bid farewell. Although the current run of dates is quite intense and thorough across the UK, let’s hope it’s not too long before Frank is back in Wolverhampton, certainly lets’ try not to leave it another ten years!


Editor & Photographer. Eclectic music tastes and fan of a good beat. Can usually be found at a Gig across the Country or at a Festival in the Summer - More than likely with a camera surgically attached to me.