The enduring power of guitars, drums and desperate poetry: Frank Turner lights up New York City

The Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls / The Interrupters co-headline tour hits NYC. There was only ever going to be one winner

Frank Turner
(Image: © Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Nestled between the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan, Pier 17 affords the kind of views that performers and audiences are unlikely to soon forget. As spring in New York City prepares to cede ground to a predictably punishing summer, this rooftop venue on the western bank of the East River is for one night only the site of an open-air punk rock show at which even the people not enmeshed in one of four good-natured circle-pits work up a sweat. Because although the views are spectacular, the air is thick and still; with drinks at the bar selling for almost £15 a pint, refreshment comes at a cost. 

Although these two co-headliners have been taking turns to close the show since their caravan hit the highways of Canada and the US last month, on Manhattan’s eastern flank it is difficult to picture The Interrupters doing anything other than playing first. For while on record the Californian quartet’s well-built songs marry punk and ska to superior effect, in person, in Gotham, a grating brand of happy-clappy bullshit means a performance that is more CBeebies than CBGB. 

With only an hour to make their point, singer Aimee Interrupter and guitarist Kevin Bivona seem keen on thanking everyone bar the rats and muggers of the Lower East Side. Fine, if you must, but what about the rock’n’roll? When it does at last arrive, particularly in the form of songs such as She Got Arrested and Gave You Everything, the Angelinos conjoin with the energy of an entirely different coastal city in a way that is absent when they’re making nice. As ever, Gotham likes the action. As for the kind words, “Gedoudahere”. 

Forty-minutes later, the hour at which Frank Turner unloads opening song Punches, New York City has obligingly slipped into its evening wear. Lit from above and projected onto the screens at the side of the stage, Turner is a volcano of stubble, sweat and spittle – a grimace of a man who each night goes to uncommon lengths to ensure that perfect strangers receive plenty of bang for their bucks. On his watch, passivity is not an acceptable currency.

To this end, the recent addition of drummer Callum Green has helped elevate The Sleeping Souls to the kind of world-class backing band from whose hands suppleness and shade come as easy as speed and bombast. As applied to a set-list that includes 1933, Polaroid Picture, Haven’t Been Doing So Well, I Still Believe and Photosynthesis, the result is an airtight yet nuanced hour that proves that even in a city as demanding as New York, on a good night at least, rock’n’roll can indeed save us all.

Ian Winwood
Freelance Writer

Barnsley-born author and writer Ian Winwood contributes to The Telegraph, The Times, Alternative Press and Times Radio, and has written for Kerrang!, NME, Mojo, Q and Revolver, among others. His favourite albums are Elvis Costello's King Of America and Motorhead's No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith. His favourite books are Thomas Pynchon's Vineland and Paul Auster's Mr Vertigo. His own latest book, Bodies: Life and Death in Music, is out now on Faber & Faber and is described as "genuinely eye-popping" by The Guardian, "electrifying" by Kerrang! and "an essential read" by Classic Rock. He lives in Camden Town.