frank-turner

Frank Turner

– NIGHT & DAY CAFE, MANCHESTER –

It’s Independent Venue Week this week and four Manchester venues are taking part in hosting shows before it comes to an end. Tonight, Night & Day is hosting its first of three IVW shows as Frank Turner comes to town. Just under a year ago Turner was headlining at the arena, so its not surprising this show sold out in a matter of seconds when it went on sale back in November. There has been a lot of excitement building around the gig, enough that even a free pre-show gig across the road at Gullivers could exist off the back of it.

It occurred to me while I was at that pre-show, watching Felix Hagan successfully bend the crowd to his will, I could probably have written the gist of this review yesterday. In the seven years since I first saw Frank Turner live I’ve not seen him play a bad show, and some of my favourite ever gigs have taken place at Night & Day. So there was never any danger of this not being good.

I arrive at the venue with Oxygen Thief already on stage, opening the night with his own brand of aggressive acoustic guitar. The first thing I notice is the venue has been cleared out. The tables and chairs that usually sit in front of the stage are gone, presumably to make more space to squeeze in as many people as possible. After getting myself a drink from the bar, I begin my mission to find a suitable place to stand in an already busy room.

A feature of Frank Turner shows over the years has been great support acts that I hadn’t heard of before. The next act on stage carries on that tradition. Esmé Patterson enters along with her drummer David Strackany and grabs everyone’s attention. Playing a guitar she’s borrowed for the night, through an amp she’s borrowed for the night, she sets about performing songs from her upcoming album. The songs are all written from the perspective of women in pop songs. My favourite is ‘What Do You Call A Woman?’, a song written from the perspective of Billie Jean. Its peaks and troughs are just right to pull you in and keep you there. Patterson has flown over from Portland, Oregon to play this show, her first ever show in the UK, and she has instantly made my list of acts to watch out for. I hope to see her back in the UK again soon.

FrankTurner

Frank Turner

Before the arrival of our headliner, we have one more support act. Skinny Lister bring with them both their English Folk music for our ears and a flagon of rum for our bellies. As they pass the flagon from the stage and around the room, the atmosphere is becoming more and more feisty. It’s clear we’re getting close to the big event and somehow attempting to sing along to a Skinny Lister sea shanty, without actually knowing the words, is the perfect way to fuel the excitement. By the time Skinny Lister leave the stage everyone has found their place, nobody is moving and risking losing their spot as we await Frank Turner’s arrival.

He enters the stage, wine red Gibson Hummingbird guitar in hand and wearing a t-shirt from american band Mineral’s 2014 reunion tour, he announces “Welcome to show #1631”. He follows that with a completely unnecessary plea to sing along to songs we know, before ‘If Ever I Stray’ becomes the first song, and the first mass singalong of the set. There is no let up in the crowd singing through ‘Try This At Home’ and ‘Losing Days’ before the first new song of the night. This song is called ‘Get Better’ and will feature on the next Frank Turner album, due out this summer. Its rallying cry “we could get better, cause we’re not dead yet” has already embedded itself into the rather excitable audience by the end of the song, even though we’re hearing it for the first time.

The first praise for tonight’s venue and independent venues everywhere comes before the next song, “places like this are where underground music really exists” says Turner. Everyone present seems to be in agreement and almost as a reward another parade of songs to singalong to comes along. ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’, ‘Tattoos’, ‘Fathers Day’ and ‘Fastest Way Back Home’ bring us to the second new song of the night. This one is called ‘Glorious Year’ and Turner was inspired to write it because his “cousin had a shitty year”.

Appearing to enjoy giving the performance as much as the crowd was enjoying receiving it, during next song ‘The Way I Tend To Be’ Turner steps back from the microphone and looks delighted as every word is sang at him. We’re ten songs into the set now and there are no signs of it slowing down at all. We get a cover next as Turner tells us “this is one of the first acoustic songs I ever learned” before launching into ‘The Outdoor Type’, first released by Smudge in 1993 then later made famous by The Lemonheads in 1997.

Moving swiftly on, next is ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’, then we’re treated to ‘I Am Disappeared’ followed by ‘Tell Tale Signs’. There seems to have been a change in performance for these two tracks. He gets more intense than in previous songs as though these are two songs whose lyrics mean a lot to him. He is literally spitting them into the microphone, and onto the front row.

Frank Turner

Frank Turner

By this time of the night everyone is getting a bit sweaty, there are even beads of sweat quite visibly running down Turner’s guitar. Linking back to the reason for the show tonight, ‘Balthazar, Impresario’ is next and is described as a song about British Music Hall, a craft that’s been forgotten “because nobody looked after it”. “Lets not let that happen to rock n roll” Turner adds.

The opening chords of ‘Photosynthesis’ are a sure sign we’re entering the home stretch. It’s far too warm in the room to get goosebumps, but being part of a room full of people screaming “I won’t grow up” is quite enjoyable. With a birthday fast approaching, this is to be the last gig I attend in my twenties. But I have every intention of following the song’s wise words.

‘Recovery’ and ‘I Still Believe’ bring more hysterical singing along before the alleged end of the show. Turner decides not to bother leaving the stage and instead just stands to one side of it, riling the crowd into demanding the inevitable encore. The encore begins with another cover, this time Tom Jones gets the Frank Turner treatment as he gives us his version of ‘Delilah’. The moment in the song where those around me choose to sing the “ha ha ha”, but all with slightly different timing is surreal, like being stuck inside a clown’s nightmare.

There is only one more track to play tonight, and it couldn’t have been anything else. Closing the show is ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’. Turner abandons the microphone and jumps atop the monitors at the front of the stage as the crowd take over lead vocals once more. Towards the end of the song, he returns to the microphone, but so enthusiastic is the crowd, he still can’t be heard over the top of the people screaming “we’re definitely going to hell, but we’ll have all the best stories to tell”.

Tonight’s headline performance was 75 minutes and 20 songs long and it was a lot of fun to be a part of. It is absolutely true that we need venues like Night & Day, and I am fully behind the Independent Venue Week cause. I am one of the few lucky people who got to witness the show this evening, but nights like this are not all that rare in small venues across the country. These are the places where stars are born. The places where acts learn how to excite a crowd. As long as we keep their doors open, they will continue to reward us with new and exciting music that nobody else is willing to take a chance on.

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Adam Smith

There is nothing I'd rather be doing with my evenings than watching excellently crafted live music. In fact, there isn't much I'd rather be doing than watching half-decent live music. Having too often seen excellent bands fail to garner the attention I believe they deserve, I'm here to spread the good word of the under-appreciated musical performer. I encourage everyone who is reading this to do the same.