LIVE: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls / Pet Needs - Manchester Academy, 11/10/2022

LIVE: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls / Pet Needs – Manchester Academy, 11/10/2022

Though The Never Ending Tour of Everywhere might be a somewhat tongue-in-cheek title for Frank Turner’s current tour, there does seem to be some truth it. Balancing punk energy and ethos with the spirit of a true troubadour, tonight marks Turner’s 2700th show, and given the following day’s 2023 tour announcement, shows little sign of slowing down.

And why should he?

His latest record FTHC earned him his first Number 1 album, and the sold out shows up and down the country are a testament to just how much Turner means to his fans. 2600 of which are in attendance tonight, flooding from the bar into Manchester Academy as Colchester punks Pet Needs take to the stage.

Likely already familiar to many of those in attendance, four-piece Pet Needs supported Turner on last year’s tour, with the latter going on to mix and master the former’s debut album Fractured Party Music. It’s this record that forms half of Pet Needs’ impressive 10-song set, with tracks such as ‘Toothpaste’ and ‘Overcompensating’ whipping an eager crowd into a frenzy of flailing limbs. Though somewhat long for a support set, it doesn’t feel it, and soon we’re left blinking into houselights as waves of anticipation ripple through the venue and the sound of conversation rises. 

We don’t have to wait long. Barely 20 minutes pass before lights drop again and the lithe figure of Turner strides out to deafening applause launching quickly into opening number ‘Four Simple Words’. It’s a surprising start, given that it’s a track most often given over as Turner’s final number. It works though. A simple piano the only accompaniment to Turner’s voice, building to an early crescendo that sets the tone for much of what’s to follow.

An early outing for recent single ‘Haven’t Been Doing So Well’ keeps the pace ticking along nicely and provides the first instance of the new material that backbones much of tonight’s set. Elsewhere the likes of ‘Punches’ and ‘The Work’ light a fire under the audience as circle pits open up across the venue. 

It’s interesting to see the difference between the more recent tracks, and those more established like ‘1933’ and ‘Out of Breath’. Whilst both harbour Turner’s inimitable energy, the former feels much more piss and vinegar whilst the latter’s spit ’n’ sawdust, it’s fire in the belly punk rock vs. folk-flavoured alt rock.

Of course, this matters little when you find yourself in the middle of a crowd who are enjoying every moment; each song sang back in unison with even the newer material holding its own against fan-favourites such as ‘Photosynthesis’or ‘I Am Disappeared’.

A moment of respite comes in the form ‘A Wave Across the Bay’, Turner’s moving tribute to friend and Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchinson. It’s here too, that Turner’s band, The Sleeping Souls take their temporary leave, leaving Turner alone on stage to play almost as many songs again. It’s another common feature of his carefully crafted shows, and one that allows him to revisit deeper cuts, dig into his back catalogue, or just otherwise play with different versions of established tracks.

Case in point tonight comes in the form of ‘Thatcher Fucked the Kids’, an acoustic offering from Frank’s early days that rarely gets played live. ‘Cleopatra in Brooklyn’ is another B-side that gets a surprise airing.

Of course, armed with an acoustic guitar and little else, it makes sense for Turner to turn his hand to some of his quieter numbers, and a tender ‘Be More Kind’ and ‘The Way I Tend to Be’ fill this quota perfectly, before rousing renditions of ‘The Gathering’ and ‘Non Servium’ pick things right back up, before ‘Get Better’ closes out the main proceedings.

Encores aren’t anything of a surprise these days, but Turner and band still receive a massive response as they return to the stage for their final numbers. Unsurprisingly they save some of the best until last, with ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’ serving to remind people about taking pleasure in the smaller things in life. ‘Recovery’ sees one of the best reactions of the crowd thus far, the now familiar circle pits opening back up, dodged marginally by the occasional crowd surfers above them.

With the prospect of the final song looming, and having opened with the expected number, guesses are made as to what Turner is going to close with. We don’t have to wait long. As soon as the opening notes of ‘I Still Believe’ begin, the crowd join him in unison, having whipped themselves into a final celebratory frenzy of singalongs and shit-eating grins, safe in the knowledge that not only was this Frank Turner at his best, but chances are we’ll be able to do it all again next year.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.