Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – Manchester, 13 April 2018

Finally the boys are back in town! So to speak :-). As this past weekend was winding down I was tempted for a moment to honour the start of the Be More Kind World Tour with a comprehensive rundown of all the songs and all the new (but also the traditional) elements of the show. But I know that would take me ages to do, so I will focus on just a few elements of the show after all.

The setlist is up on setlist.fm and of course photos of it were up on Facebook and Twitter that night as well. All in all I thought it was a good compilation of songs and a really good show in general. Some of the new songs worked very well for me live: Blackout and 1933, which also were the opening songs. I’m still not the biggest fan of the full band version of Make America Great Again to be honest. I very much enjoyed There She Is.

I have to admit I’m a bit on the fence still about the live full band version of Be More Kind, and I almost feel apologetic about this, as it is one of my all time favourite songs Frank has written. I have loved the simple acoustic version he had played at gigs last year. I adore the album version! So much that I wrote a 1600 word long essay (aka blog post) about it recently. At the gig on Friday people started clapping along after the first few chords and for reasons I still haven’t quite figured out, that bugged me immensely. It might be because this song always puts me into a bit of an emotional – but also equally a ‘zen’ – state of mind. It makes me feel so many things. To me it’s so NOT a song to clap my hands or tap my foot or do anything rhythmically along to it. So, that clapping really threw me off! I’m afraid I might have to get used to it though and I’m not sure yet how I will feel about that. Nerd problems, I guess.

The rest of the set was quite good as well. Some songs have to be dropped from the regular set over the years to make space for new material, so it’s always nice to hear some of the older songs as well. Some are classics that won’t drop any time soon I think, like for instance Photosynthesis. Frank had sort of a running joke through the show, stating that of course they would also play older songs. Following this statement by playing a song from the 2013 album Tape Deck Heart. Then stating “I know, you think, he said he’s playing something old and then they play something from album nr 5. But we will play something old later as well…” and with this spiel working his way back The Ballad of Me And My Friends during his solo acoustic set :-)

Frank had caught a throat infection the day before, which sucks! For him more than for us in the audience, I guess. His singing voice seemed all right, but I have no idea what singing actually did to his voice. [As I’m typing this Frank tweeted that he had to cancel the 2nd Dublin show scheduled for tonight, because his voice (and state of health) is just not up for it.] He talked about his throat infection very early on and apologized for his voice not being his best. “At some point I must have pissed off God somehow. Maybe with a song I once wrote…?” ;-) They did play that song (Glory Hallelujah) later, which surprised me a bit, as I had thought it had been retired from the set.

I very much enjoyed the “bells & whistles” they added to new stage setup / layout. At the 2nd show in Dublin on Sunday there seemed to have been a new black backdrop with the Be More Kind design on it, but I didn’t see that in Manchester. Or was it dropped right at the start and revealed the screens in the back? Anyway, there were large screens in the back, but also three smaller ones in front of the drums and keys. Which was cool for us in the front rows because the images on the large screens in the back seemed a bit distorted from where we stood. They used the screens in various ways. At some songs there was video material: snaps from the video clip to Make America Great Again or during The Road there were shots out of the front of a car driving somewhere. For the new songs I think they also had the song graphics up (the candle for Blackout or the burning house for 1933.) And sometimes they filmed the audience or members of the band and put this footage up. I didn’t see someone filming with a camera, so they must have cameras installed somewhere on stage as well. Either way it was a neat new feature. Not too much to distract from the music or the band, but still something new which definitely made the gig a bit more interesting.

The biggest surprise for me though was the mic stand a crew member put in Tarrant’s spot when they were setting up the stage for the Sleeping Souls. Mainly because of this…

So, of course we kept wondering. Will they bring on additional vocals and/or instruments for one or more songs? Or might Tarrant sing after all *gasp*?

When the band came on stage we saw Tarrant at first turn the mic away from him and after a few moments (or the first song?) quickly moving the mic stand to the side, where a crew member at some point took it away back stage. Ok, it seemed like someone in the crew might have misunderstood something. Tarrant obviously wouldn’t be singing that night. Until, during the final song of the night “Polaroid Picture” he walked back to Matt at the keys and… joined in the background singing. Woah! I never thought I’d live to see the day ;-). According to some people who were at the Dublin show, he did not sing there, which made Friday night even more special. But seriously now: Tarrant is an amazing bass player, a lovely person and it doesn’t really matter if he’s singing on stage or not. I’ll be “#TeamTarrant 4life” :-) anyway.

Only 25 days until we do this and more all over again (and again and again and again) at Lost Evenings at the Roundhouse in London.

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