I've been to the West End Cultural Centre numerous times over the years, but I've never seen a nearly sold-out crowd packed inside. In fact, it's usually quite the opposite. Cobra Skulls, Broadway Calls and The Flatliners played to a fairly empty room. And while attendance was up for Protest the Hero and Moneen, it still felt cold and empty. I'm not too sure why Winnipeggers came out in droves this time, but I guess I shouldn't complain. He definitely deserves it and England Keep My Bones is one of the better records that came out in 2011 so far. Maybe the fact that it was a Saturday had something to do with it too, I really have no idea.
Anyway, things did start off slower for Into It. Over It., but that's usually the way it is for the opening acts. I was able to grab a spot right in front of the stage and was there for the rest of the night. Evan is the first person I've seen to sit down while performing at a show like this. He had a little stool and he sat there for the entirety of his set, hunched over his acoustic guitar. He was very talkative, but he doesn't really talk with the crowd. Instead he just talked to the crowd. He started off the set talking about Winnipeg and continually remarked about how polite and friendly we were. He also liked to go into detail about the songs he wrote, giving us background on them. He told various little stories, like how his bike got stolen and some kid put it on Craigslist so he was able to get it back. And of course, he still had time to actually play songs. He ended his set with "Anchor" and played tracks off of his new full-length Proper.
Andrew Jackson Jihad played an entertaining set with just an acoustic guitar and stand-up bass. It definitely inspired me to check out the material in further detail. They seemed to have a number of people in the crowd who were huge fans, there were some big sing-alongs and some people were even shouting out requests. At the end of "American Tune," some guy in the crowd shouted "Fuck white male privilege!" really loudly. Other songs included "Rejoice" and Jesus Saves," the crowd participation remaining enthusiastic throughout. And for "Love Will Fuck Us Apart," Evan came out and played the kazoo. They were the least talkative act that night, choosing to focus on playing their acoustic-folk-punk songs instead.
And of course, Frank Turner. The opening bands were good, but they definitely didn't come close to what Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls had to offer. The room was packed and the crowd went crazy. It was a diverse crowd too, there were a number of people who looked old enough to be my dad. But the crowd still got pretty rowdy and the politeness Evan was talking about earlier started to wear off. Some dude jumped on stage and grabbed Frank, trying to hug him and refusing to let go. A security guard came on stage five seconds later to haul him off, which is something I haven't seen in awhile. There was also some fighting, which Frank called out from the stage. And heckling too, AJJ did nothing about the fans calling requests, and Frank was quick to silence them.
But all that made the show slightly more interesting, for better or worse. I saw Frank a little over two years ago when he opened up for The Gaslight Anthem at the Garrick. It was just him and his acoustic guitar, so it was cool to finally see him backed up with drums, keyboards, electric guitar and bass. The bass was loud in particular, you could really hear the bass-lines and sometimes they entirely overpowered the actual guitars. They were all wearing matching white shirts and they were all very energetic, moving and jumping everywhere. It was nice to see some energy because the opening acts remained quite still.
He opened with "Eulogy" to a loud cheer before going into "Try This At Home." About halfway through the set, the band left the stage and Frank Turner sang "English Curse." He also played "Dan's Song" alone and encouraged everyone to play "air harmonica" before the band returned. Crowd participation was a huge part of this show, he really wanted everyone to sing along and get into it. Seeing everyone sing "There is no God" during "Glory Hallelujah" was a pretty cool thing to experience.
He played "Long Live The Queen," "The Road," and then launched into a cover of Queen's "Somebody To Love" before coming back for the encore himself. With just an acoustic guitar, he proclaimed his love for Propagandhi and The Weakerthans before strumming the opening of "One Great City," changing the lyrics slightly and ending with "I love Winnipeg." I've been going to shows here regularly since 2007 and I've never seen people attempt this song until this year when I witnessed two covers. Dave Hause and Mikey Erg played this song back in June too.
The last track of the night was "Photosynthesis." Frank gave his acoustic guitar to Evan and he jumped around the stage, getting the crowd ready for the biggest sing along yet, where everyone was to shout "And I won't sit down and I won't shut up. And most of all I will not grow up." Frank really knows how to bring his songs to life and you can't get that same experience sitting in your house and listening to them on record. It was a great way to end an amazing night. And totally worth attending even if I got soaked because I had to walk there in the middle of a gigantic thunderstorm.