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Review/Gallery: Wilswood Buoys, The Lottery Winners, Frank Turner – Ipswich Corn Exchange, 04/02/2023

Bloody hell, what a venue for tonight! I’ve been here once before for Ipswich Sound City a few years back which was certainly a bit quieter than tonight but, as the venue fills up, it’s just a really nice space to watch some music in. Opening the night is the job of Wilswood Buoys and this is by far the biggest stage I’ve seen them playing on (I think last time was a living room, to be fair). I’m always impressed by the intricacy of their dual guitar approach and it seems I’m not the only one, a fair few loud cheers during the middle of instrumental parts. Their recurring theme of Josh’s live life goes down well with an audience who are likely seeing them for the first time. Hardly surprising, their tracks are catchy, well written and they give a tight performance. If they needed any help converting the last few in the audience then a mystery man sneaking along the back of the stage might just do the job with Frank Turner running out onto the stage to perform his vocals on track A Place To Call My Own. It’s great to see the duo going down so well with crowds across the country on this tour, well deserved.

Up next are a band who are completely new to me, The Lottery Winners. Usually I’d say “I wish I’d heard of this band earlier” but, to be honest, perhaps a live show like this is the best way to discover the band. The personality of frontman Thom comes across throughout the performance and ensures that, even between songs, I’m grinning wildly throughout. The fact that the songs are basically future hit after future hit doesn’t hurt either. They’re heading off on a fairly lengthy headline tour in April and I can’t recommend going to see them more. I’ll be sure to catch a show, this set definitely left me wanting more.

Headlining the night is Frank Turner. Oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him performing with his band, The Sleeping Souls, despite having heard him solo quite a few times (it’s apparently been sixteen years since first catching him supporting Biffy Clyro in Manchester. Doesn’t feel like that long ago!) and, obviously, I’m expecting a considerably more lively set. They don’t disappoint in this regard; the additional layers and energy that a full band provides clearly amplifiers the energy Frank gives off – that’s not to say the solo shows lack energy, far from it, but he’s running and jumping his way around the stage throughout a fairly lengthy set. It really is a lengthy set too – I thought the solo section in the second half was in the place of walking off and coming back from an encore but, no, there’s another 5 songs after the acoustic bit before the band leave the stage for the first time.

It’s good to hear tracks from a lot of records throughout his fairly lengthy career; from a solo performance of Thatcher Fucked The Kids, a song I remember hearing the first time I heard him, right through to tracks from 2022’s FTHC. Returning the favour from earlier in the night, Joe from Willswood Buoys runs onto stage to play some harmonica during I Still Believe wrapping up the main set. The encore opens with A Wave Across The Bay, a tribute to Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit who sadly took his life in 2018. Lyrically it’s quite visceral but the honesty in the track is quite important I think and certainly Frank doesn’t shy away from the details of Scott’s final night. Overall it’s been interesting to hear the tracks performed live as a full band for the first time – I think the tracks are well written however they’re performed but generally the band enhanced the best feature, the hooks, rather than reduce their effect. The acoustic section in the second half gives a bit of variety too. I get why people become obsessed with his music and why so many will travel far to hear it live. Helps when it’s in such a stunning venue too.

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