Frank Turner – Manchester Academy Review 13/04/18

Let’s begin at the beginning….

On Friday the 13th of April, singer/songwriter Frank Turner and his band; The Sleeping Souls started their mammoth new world tour in support of their upcoming seventh album Be More Kind at Manchester Academy. This was my thirteenth time seeing Frank, but this time I was unable to experience the intimacy of the hot and sweaty venue as I was watching from the disabled access balcony. However, at first I thought this wouldn’t be as fun as previous gigs, however, the location where I was watching from gave me the chance to see absolutely everything from above that I wouldn’t normally get being in the standing area. Being able to see the adoration on the faces of fans and singing along to every word with their favourite musician was a wonderful site to see. Normally Manchester is in the middle or towards the end of most bands world tours, but this time it was at the very start so it was nice to be surprised by what songs were played rather than going in knowing what the band were likely to play.

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Source: The Manc Photographer (Matt Eachus)

One of the aspects I was excited for most about this show was how well the new songs would go down. And go down well they did! Starting on the new lead single Blackout, which shows that Turner is pushing for a more accessible sound by adding a more poppier vibe to it. However, this does not deter fans from belting every word back to him onstage. More new releases are played throughout the night such as the anthemic political romp that is 1933, which offers comparisons to current events to the events of 1933 and the rise of fascism and how he (and rightly so!) doesn’t want it to happen again. Despite the change in the direction of music, it doesn’t harm the flow from one song to another throughout the setlist. The new songs don’t feel out of place next to 2015 single Get Better and Tape Deck Heart’s Recovery both of which which has the crowd frenzied, dancing and singing along like their lives depend on it. Following this, Frank launches into Make America Great Again, a stadium sized love letter to America that makes the crowd of 2,600 feel like more like 26,000.

The raw energy on display during the first few songs doesn’t see Frank shying away from softer, intimate moments however, with quieter moments found in songs like Be More Kind, allowing a breather and brief moment of reflection for the audience in the aftermath of the chaotic first 20 minutes. In true Friday the 13th fashion, Turner had been struck with a throat infection which should have really stopped him from performing but with a true punk rock attitude, Turner fights through the 24 song set with nary a complaint to be heard from the singer.

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Source: The Manc Photographer (Matt Eachus)

After blasting through the new songs, it is then plain sailing weather from then on until the end of the show of hits and fan favourites, much to the fans delight such as I Am Disappeared, The Next Storm and Glory Hallelujah to name a few. Throughout the night, Turner joked that he was going to be playing “old songs” and upon hearing him play the opening chords to Peggy Sang The Blues suddenly gave me the realisation that he certainly has come a long way since I first saw him supporting Green Day in 2010, when I was 16 years old, doing my GCSE’s!

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Source: The Manc Photographer (Matt Eachus)

Midway through the set, Turner does his obligatory solo acoustic section while his band take a, in his words “union mandated break”. While only doing two songs for this bit. A rare appearance from Poetry of the Deed’s opening track; Live Fast, Die Old is somewhat overshadowed by the timeless classic; The Ballad of Me and My Friends which has always gone exceptionally well among fans and is seen as one of, if not the best song of his discography. The song, which was once a lamentation on Turner’s uncertainty early on in his career, now serves as a defiant middle finger to those who told him he wouldn’t make it as a solo musician. As he leaves the crowd to belt out the defining final lyric of the song, it once again is a goose-bump inducing moment that will never ever get old at his shows, even after seeing him for a 13th time.

As Turner gets to the end of the main set, which closes with the now ten year old set staple; Photosynthesis which rejuvenates the crowd and once again has the crowd dancing, jumping and generally loving life as they recite the mantra “I won’t sit down, I won’t shut up and most of all I will not grow up!” The bridge of the song  sees the crowd sitting down in an ironic response to the chorus before jumping back up in euphoria to the final chorus.

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Source: The Manc Photographer (Matt Eachus)

Frank could have left it there, but he wasn’t done. After a brief stoppage, Turner returns to the stage with a rousing and emotional rendition of one of my all time favourite songs; I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous which was welcomed with open arms from old and new fans alike. This song is then followed by I Still Believe, one of his finest songs to date as it truly encapsulates the spirit of rock and roll  and what the audience and Turner himself holds most dear about it. The penultimate song; Four Simple Words has Frank ditching his guitar and adopting some Freddie Mercury-esque mannerisms. He even invites a member of the stage crew to dance with him onstage, before jumping into the audience to crowd surf and creating a raucous atmosphere amongst the audience as they dance and mosh to their hearts content. Normally this song is what would end the show but Frank throws a left hook with this set-list closing with a sombre rendition of Polaroid Picture offering a melancholic ending to the concert, in contrast to his usual tradition of ending on a high.

This was the start of Frank Turner’s biggest tour to date, and to start off in Manchester was obviously a big deal for him and his band as they seem to have a particular affinity for the city, as their Manchester shows are usually among the first to sell out. If you are to catch Frank Turner on a tour, make it this one!

If you want to listen to what Frank and his band played, then the setlist is below!

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls Setlist: Manchester Academy 1, Manchester, April 13th 2018