“Now who’d have thought that after all, something as simple as rock and roll would save us all,” sang British folk-punk troubadour Frank Turner at Upstate Concert Hall on Wednesday night.
The singer-songwriter was leading the crowd in a call-and-response to the catchy chorus of “I Still Believe,” a song about the redemptive power of rock and roll.
Turner, playing the 1,972nd show of his career, as he announced from the stage, returned to the Clifton Park club for a sold-out show with his backing band the Sleeping Souls (guitarist Ben Lloyd, bassist Tarrant Anderson, keyboardist Matt Nasir and drummer Nigel Powell).
Turner played the concert hall in 2010 while opening for rock and roll stalwarts Social Distortion, and since then his audience has significantly grown. He packed the place with 1,000 fans eager to hear passionate “folk songs of the modern age.”
Part of the appeal is his earnest romanticism. On opening song “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous,” the literate songwriter referenced poet T. S. Eliot and legendary Americana songwriter Gram Parsons while singing nostalgically about plotting revolution with the “lovers” and “losers” in his southern England small-town scene.
Yet the former vocalist of hardcore punk band Million Dead — who is equal parts sensitive singer-songwriter and arena rocker — also knows how to get a crowd moving with his bursts of bristling energy.
Dressed in a white short-sleeve button-down shirt and skinny black tie with tattoos running up his arms, Turner got the crowd to jump along with him on upbeat rocker “The Next Storm,” celebrated getting old “disgracefully” on the rousing “Losing Days” and asked the crowd to put on their “dancing shoes” for the frenetic, Celtic punk of “Try This at Home.”
He and the band even ripped out a snippet of Motörhead’s classic headbanger “Ace of Spades” before exhorting the crowd to lift their arms and wave their fingers in a gesture of “jazz hands” during the chorus of indie-punk anthem “Glorious You” from his most recent album, 2015’s “Positive Songs for Negative People.”
Over time, Turner’s exuberance has been costly, as he said from the stage, leading to a host of injuries — from twisted ankles to broken bones — related to jumping around during shows. But that clearly hasn’t caused him to slow down, and he goaded the crowd to jump along on the propulsive “Polaroid Picture” and singalong “Wessex Boy.”
Then during a solo acoustic set, the sensitive side of Turner re-emerged as he played fan-requested songs that formed a mini-song-cycle about a real-life failed romance: “Hits & Mrs,” “Redemption,” “The Way I Tend to Be.”
“This is my favorite show of this tour so far,” Turner told the audience near the end of the two-hour set after his band had returned to close the show with high energy tunes like “If I Ever Stray” and an exuberant encore featuring “Recovery” and “Get Better.”
After witty British singer-songwriter Will Varley entertained the crowd with amusing ditties referencing everything from Sonny & Cher to Donald Trump, along with quieter numbers like “King for a King,” the energetic five-piece Ontario band Arkells displayed a well-honed sense of groove on animated dance-rockers like “A Little Rain (A Song for Pete),” “Private School” and “Leather Jacket.”