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alexcooper
27th October 2022

“If anybody ever asks us, let’s tell them we met in Manchester”: Frank Turner inspires at the Academy

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls stop off for show 2700 in Manchester, with support from Pet Needs and more
“If anybody ever asks us, let’s tell them we met in Manchester”: Frank Turner inspires at the Academy
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. Photo: Alex Cooper @ The Mancunion

“This is show 2700”, Frank Turner exclaims to a packed crowd at Manchester Academy. The never-ending touring prowess of Turner is staggering, bolstered up by some (probably) spreadsheet-extracted statistics about the number times in the city and the venue. Off the back of their new album, FTHC, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls have embarked on a large venue tour. Hitting big cities, their now ubiquitous show draws a crowd of all ages.

Ostensibly a punk frontman, Turner is an interesting character to try and comprehend. Formerly of the post-hardcore band Million Dead, and now with a 17-year solo career under his belt, his back catalogue’s breadth is pretty staggering. Elements of indie, pop, punk, hardcore, and folk are often adjacent. Where it could be messy, it triumphs in eclecticism. You don’t play 2700 shows if there’s not something about you…

Turner is a generous frontman. He has done extensive work in relation to grassroots independent venues, and Safe Gigs for Women, both of paramount importance beyond music. During the pandemic, relentless touring was substituted for relentless livestreams, ending in February 2021, contributing towards the preservation of many threatened independent venues off of which Manchester and the country thrive.

Generosity did not stop there. We were treated to four artists at Manchester Academy, first up being Sierra Leone born Mash P, and second, American country duo Truckstop Honeymoon. Keen to mention their Manchester roots, banjoist Mike West stressed he used to live somewhere between Belle Vue and Longsight. Distinctly unhinged lyrics (a particular highlight being the refrain of “your mother is a sociopath”) and humour engaged the ever-growing crowd.

Main support came from Colchester’s Pet Needs. They are a band Turner is linked to, and they slotted in effortlessly on the bill. The band recorded their latest album Primetime Entertainment at Turner’s garden studio, and produced by him, too. Layered, anthemic vocals featured from all four members throughout. Frontman Johnny Marriott utilised the mic stand to the very boundaries of its capabilities. Lyrics from Pet Needs are gleaned from unconventional places; Marks and Spencer’s bags and washing machines feature prominently. They combine the strength of punk with lyricism akin to British indie bands like The Libertines and The Rakes. Songs were well known and, albeit with a little persuasion, the crowd were receptive to calls to “jump” and similar instructions.

The band also shed light on the hardships of touring in 2022, expressing their gratitude towards Manchester Academy for not taking any merch fees, a dominant debate within the industry over the last few months. Comparing the £800 bill received from a set at Disneyland Paris, Pet Needs made clear that they are feeling the pinch. Sadly, the reality is that bands up and down the country are facing identical problems. Ending with a one-two punch of ‘Toothpaste’ and ‘Get on the Roof’, the crowd were suitably amped up for the headline set.

Pet Needs. Alex Cooper @ The Mancunion

In matching white shirts, some ironed and some not, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls assumed the stage. Seconds later, they dived straight into ‘Four Simple Words’, causing an instant mosh pit. Turner’s stage presence permeated across the whole room. Most of the crowd knowing every syllable, and the rest very quickly catching up. From the defiant jubilation of ‘Photosynthesis’ to the abject frustration of ‘1933’, Turner dovetailed between styles almost invisibly and with ease.

Turner allowed space to breath in his two-hour set by interpolating songs with stories. The story behind ‘Miranda’, about his father’s transition and the subsequent upturn in their relationship, was particularly moving. “I don’t give a f*ck what anything thinks about this subject”, Turner states, to widespread agreement. The environment at gigs makes all the difference, and Frank Turner’s felt safe, in action and in aura. It’s indicative of the attitude that he has fostered over his years of touring.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. Alex Cooper @ The Mancunion

 

Another moment came from the song ‘A Wave Across a Bay’, in tribute to the much-missed Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. Hutchison tragically took his own life five years ago. Deep homage was paid, and it’s important to hear Hutchison’s contemporaries continue his legacy. Emphasis was placed on talking about mental health, with Turner namedropping CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and Samaritans as valuable resources. A short acoustic set ensued, with Turner playing the rarely dusted off ‘Cleopatra in Brooklyn’ at a fan’s request. This was followed by a rousing and pertinent rendition of the previously retired ‘Thatcher Fucked the Kids’. Taking the main set home, the Sleeping Souls descended into their hardcore punk roots, playing ‘Non Serviam’. The song clocked in at less than two minutes and inspired crowd surfing from all corners.

Hits kept coming, with the rousing ‘Get Better’ closing the main set. An encore featuring ‘Recovery’ and ‘I Still Believe’ fostered the same carnage that featured throughout the night. We received a fleshed out, personal, and galvanising set. It touched on so many themes, but at the centre there remained a sense of community and safety. I’ve had worse Tuesdays. Generosity and community prevailed; Frank Turner is 2700 shows in and it’s profoundly evident, in the best possible way.

 

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls return to the UK in January. Tickets here.

Pet Needs play Gulliver’s in December. Tickets here.

If you feel the need to speak someone, visit MIND for a list of helplines and resources.

 

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Writer for the Mancunion, covering music and gigs in the Manchester area. Once walked past Nick Cave abroad. I’m contactable via Twitter (@alex_cooper25) and Instagram (@ale.xcooper).

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