Frank Turner’s Stories and Songs Enchant Boulder

Frank Turner’s Stories and Songs Enchant Boulder

October 25, 2019 Off By Billy Thieme
  • Musician Frank Turner performs at Boulder Theater October 21, 2019

Frank Turner is a storyteller.

And a musician. And a hell of an entertainer. Just his voice, a guitar or two, a chair, and his heart were all it took to immediately douse The Boulder Theater in a passionate world where women of power and accomplishment, personal sacrifice, and historic victories, past and present, were given the spotlight they’ve so long been denied.

And that was just the first act.

Well – really the second act of the night. Turner played his solo set after a sweet and exhilarating – albeit too short – set by New Yorker Kayleigh Goldsworthy. Sweet at one moment, ferocious the next, and melodic all the way through, Goldsworthy started off with the winsome and whelming “Jamie,” a fitting introduction that was met with giant applause after her voice echoed from the back of the top balcony.

She wrapped up her set with another song with a gender-neutral name beginning with a “J,” Johnette Napolitano’s “Joey.” She led up to the popular love song with a charming story about how she told her father she was going to play it – part of her love to cover beautiful songs for her fans. And then she told us that she found out her father used to cover the song, too, when he played in bands with her mother. She realized then that she’d probably thought for so long that “Joey” was her parents’ song, not Napolitano’s. It was a perfect representation of Goldsworthy’s natural charm.

… stories of well-deserved murders of husbands at the hands of the women who should be murdering them …

Frank Turner told stories at the Boulder Theater (Photos: Billy Thieme)

And then came Frank Turner, after a short break, appearing alone on the stage and taking a seat that might just as easily sit in a living room a few hundred yards up Fourteenth St., backed by luscious deep blue velvet curtains printed with the name of his latest album, “No Man’s Land” glowing in blue light. He started slowly with the first few lines of “Jinny Bingham’s Ghost,” before belting the rest of it out wildly in the way a pub anthem involving stories of well-deserved murders of husbands at the hands of the women who should be murdering them should be played.

And that’s how the first set went, with Turner alternating stories – lovingly and humbly recounted – of women who made history in a man-made and run (poorly, many might say) world. While his male gaze was undeniable, it was well met with the love and respect he showed these heroes with each of these ballads.

He began with “The Hymn of Kassiani” – his version of the story of Saint Kassia, the early Christian composer – telling her story of rejecting the advances of a Greek king before launching into its medieval middle eastern feel. He then told the story of “Rescue Annie,” about the Jane Doe that was pulled from the Seine in the 1800s whose death mask became the face of CPR – among the most cathartic of the early set.

He then led the theater into a rousing set – more rock than folk for sure – with “The Death of Dora Hand,” a Dodge City showgirl killed by a jealous gun, and “Sister Rosetta,” the ballad of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the R n’ R Hall of Fame inductee and Godmother of Rock ‘n Roll – and spirt animal of Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and more. Each was preceded with a passionate – and charming – story of their histories. Turner encouraged a singalong with “The Death of Dora Hand,” pleading for us to cover up his trouble with guitar solos “… so you all won’t hear it when I fuck it up!”

“Rescue Annie,” about the Jane Doe that was pulled from the Seine in the 1800s whose death mask became the face of CPR …

The living room set wrapped up with Turner’s tribute to his mom, “Rosemary Jane,” along with his story about his unwittingly delivering it to her on Mother’s Day, and “The Lioness,” a tribute to Egyptian feminist Huda Sha’arawi. In his charismatic style, he brought us all into each story intimately, describing his troublesome boyhood nature, and the passion of Sha’arawi’s defiantly relieved removal of her hijab when she arrived in Europe.

And, after what would have been an average human rock star’s set, Turner left the stage. And then he came back.

With his accomplished backup band The Sleeping Souls, Turner returned after a bit and continued to both serenade and rock the Boulder crowd mercilessly – but this set had a gaze that was much more introspective.

Playing more than triple the number of songs as the first set, Turner buried an insatiable audience for more than another hour. Reflecting his prolific musicianship and constant touring – something he pointed out at the beginning of the show, pointing out that this show was number somewhere-in-the-2000s – he spread the setlist across many years.

From “The Ballad of Me and My Friends,” with its post-adolescent jade, through crowd favorites like “The Way I Tend to Be,” “Wanderlust,” “Substitute,” and others, to the anthemic and frantic “Recovery,” Turner proved his true nature as a balladeer and Troubador.

Closing with “Be More Kind” just brought the place back to Earth, and reminded us all.


  • Billy Thieme

    Aging punk rocker with a deep of all things musical and artistic, enough to remain constantly young and perpetually mystified. Billy has journalistic dreams, but of a decidedly pastoral, Scottish nature.