Arkells, The Homeless Gospel Choir + Frank Turner – Manchester Academy 1, Manchester (13th April 2018)

With just a few weeks to go until the release of his new album ‘Be More Kind’, Frank Turner kicked off the opening night of his world tour in Manchester on Friday 13th April 2018. Renowned for not only his support of up and coming musicians, but also for his handpicked support acts, Frank once again struck gold with his choice to take The Homeless Gospel Choir and Arkells on the road with himself and his band; The Sleeping Souls.

Singer and songwriter The Homeless Gospel Choir (real name: Derek Zanetti) took to the stage of Manchester Academy 1 first, draped in a full floral suit and accompanied with just an acoustic guitar. Derek dazzled the crowd with his sheer enthusiasm and unique blend of honest lyrics and punk roots; all laced with his dark sense of humour. Wearing his heart on his sleeve with the vulnerable nature of the lyrics from his latest release ‘Normal’, Derek made an instantaneous connection with the crowd and their raucous applause as he left the stage confirmed just how well received his set was.

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Canadian rock band Arkells were up next, storming the stage with the infectiously catchy ‘Leather Jacket’. It was extraordinary to see such a polished support band and their confident demeanour definitely highlighted their wealth of experience on the touring scene. Mid-set, they bravely sought a guitar player out from within the crowd to help them with ‘Private School’ and somehow made Academy 1 feel like an intimate get together amongst friends. Their energetic new single ‘People’s Champ’ orchestrated a huge sing-along and for a minute, the night belonged to them. Arkells are definitely a band to keep an eye on as sure enough, with a live show as flawless as theirs, they’ll be headlining UK venues soon.

Fitting in with the ‘Be More Kind’ theme, The Sleeping Souls walked on to ‘Lean On Me’ and began to tease the intro to ‘Blackout’, before Frank burst onto the stage and kicked off proceedings with the leading single from the forthcoming album. Frank daringly dived into ‘1933’ next; another new track with a more politically charged nature, before crowd-pleasers ‘Get Better’ and ‘Recovery’. Playfully addressing fans early on, Frank explained that though it was an album tour, they would still be playing the hits and they did exactly that; with the set list covering a wealth of material from all aspects of his career, including the lesser played ‘Live Fast Die Old’ from 2009’s ‘Poetry of the Deed’ and ‘Peggy Sang The Blues’ from 2011’s ‘England Keep My Bones’.

Despite battling a nasty throat infection that he’d succumb to the day before, Frank gave the gig his all and though he sounded a little hoarse at times, he did his new material justice and as requested; the crowd helped him with every world; even during ‘Make America Great Again’, which was released into the wild just a few days earlier. The Manchester date of the tour coincided with the six year anniversary of Frank’s huge headline date at Wembley Stadium and as he roared his way through various anthemic tracks, such as ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’, ‘Photosynthesis’ and ‘I Still Believe’, with the entirety of the room shouting the lyrics at him, it was impossible not to stand back and admire the journey that he’s been on as one of the hardest working musicians of the last decade.

Though the evening was centred around the upcoming album that’s due for release on 4th May 2018, Frank’s stripped back rendition of the emotive ‘Glorious You’, as well as the heart-warming love ballad ‘There She Is’ gave a nod to his recent ‘Songbook’ release; a compilation that covers both what he considers to be his greatest hits, as well as reworked versions of some of his material. After a blistering performance of ‘Four Simple Words’, complete with crowd surfing and a sing-along that rivalled the volume of Frank’s microphone, he surprised the crowed with another homage to ‘Songbook’ for his final track of the night; the touching ‘Polaroid Picture’ that brought the set to a poignantly beautiful end.

Tickets for Frank Turner’s ‘Be More Kind’ world tour are on sale now.

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