With the venue slowly filling with people aged from 7 years old to 70, the first of Frank Turner’s hand-picked support bands took to the stage. The Homeless Gospel Choir, also known as Derek Zanetti took to the stage wearing a very floral shirt and matching trousers to play a sample of his “protest songs”. The act from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania gained a great reaction from the crowd with his comments between songs making audience members laugh. Some of his comments gained a few “ooo’s” from the crowd with remarks some might say were quite close to the mark, like “That orange faced crazy mother f*cker” a remark clearly aimed at Trump.
Zanetti’s second song of the night, “Musical Preference”, garnered lots of laughter from the crowd with his witty lyrics such as “More than some top 40 song, That was made to be forgotten”. He echoed some of the lyrics in this song by saying “I love you all unless you don’t listen to Queen then I just can’t trust you”. During the last song of the set, “Normal”, the venue was pretty much full and there were a lot of people singing along to this track. Overall the opening support of the night was a definite crowd pleaser albeit slightly bonkers.
Moving onto the second band of the night, Arkells received a huge cheer as they began their set starting with “Leather Jacket”, an upbeat and high energy track which instantly got the crowd moving. With the whole set being incredibly energetic, lead singer and guitarist Max Kerman owned the stage, keeping the mood light by slapping the other band members’ butts during songs.
During “Private School” they pulled a fan from the crowd who said they knew certain guitar chords to join them for about half of the song. They took the time while Mike DeAngelis on guitar showed their temporary member the chord pattern to introduce themselves before continuing with the show. After a quick thank you, they swiftly moved on with their set, making a few jokes about Zanetti stealing his wardrobe.
Before “Whistle-blower” began, Kerman dedicated it to “all those people who are in the corner i.e. journalists”. He started singing away from the microphone and as the song progressed and Anthony Carone increased the tempo of his playing on the keyboards, he moved further towards the mic stand. The song features a lot of back-up vocals on chorus lines along with crowd participation chanting them back at the band. Again, many were about a certain Twitter-addicted world leader, “It ain’t you Mr Trump”.
Without any gimmicks, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls performed a flawless, close to 2 hour long set only pausing to thank the crowd and to tell a few stories about some of the songs. Turner and the Sleeping Souls all looked very professional in their white shirts and black ties, a style which after ten years is now a synonymous look for the band. The first track off Turner’s seventh studio album Be More Kind, “Blackout”, showed just how dedicated Turner’s fans were by singing every line of the song.
The crowd appreciated comments about the gig being the first night of the tour and the fact that Manchester always impresses by being the first to sell out. Unfortunately, Turner had come down with a throat infection a few days before the tour began, but he kept in good spirits joking that he’d “pissed God off in a former life”. Turner’s illness didn’t dampen his performance for the night, possibly due to the fact that he had been “main-lining Lemsip” before the show.
During “The Road” there were pictures and videos, similar to those that are in the music video for the song, with the band travelling. After a couple more songs, Turner mentioned that he always made a point to pick his line up for tours and that he thought that The Homeless Gospel Choir and The Arkells were his favourite selection so far. He also mentioned his work with charities, stating that there is no reason why people shouldn’t be able to go to a show and that for this reason he was working with Stay Up Late on this tour.
After saying they haven’t played the song in a while, “Peggy Sang the Blues” excited the crowd and they were singing along throughout the whole song. Making a quick comment about writing a song for his cousin who had a bad year, they played “Glorious You” before getting a round of applause as the band left the stage for Turner to play a couple of songs by himself. When he was joined by the band members again they talked about it being a while since they toured and how things had changed in their lives. These changes included several of The Sleeping Souls becoming fathers, and Turner getting a cat.
It always surprises me the types of gigs that mosh pits are formed at and I wasn’t disappointed to see one during the penultimate song of the main set, “Out of Breath”. A swift introduction to all the band members and a thank you to the crowd for coming out ended what was a jam-packed performance before a welcomed encore.
“I Still Believe” saw Turner without his guitar and enjoying moving around the stage more freely. With this freedom, he decided it was time to crowd surf, but this didn’t stop him from singing the rest of the song while floating around at shoulder height. This was followed by “Four Simple Words”, those four words being “I want to Dance” which Turner did by dragging an unsuspecting new member of the crew on stage for an impromptu waltz. Normally this is where the evening would end, but the crowd were treated to one final song when Turner added “Polaroid Picture” to the setlist.
Photos by Jack Barker Photography