6th November 2023
Known for giving his all every time he plays, Frank Turner at the Manchester Opera House on Tuesday night proved no different. The show was split in two – Frank on his own for the first hour, followed by Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls in the second, providing the chance for Frank to play his newer material from ‘No Man’s Land’, as well as a “deep dive into the old shit”, with a full band behind him. It was a night of storytelling, stand-up comedy, and mesmerising musicianship.
After a beautiful and elegant opening set by Emily Barker, a long-time friend and avid preacher of women throughout history, Frank began his solo set. It was a minimalistic stage set up, with a wooden dining chair for Frank to sit on centre-stage, and a wooden bedside table to his right. It allowed the focus to be entirely on Frank and his music. The set consisted of songs from Frank’s newest album, ‘No Man’s Land’. A thematic album covering relatively unknown women throughout history, and their accomplishments.
Just Frank and his acoustic, the solo set allowed Frank’s charisma and showmanship to soar. On top of this his vocals and astute guitar skills came to light, except the solo in ‘Hymn of Kassiani’. During this track, he asked the crowd to cheer so they can’t hear him mess it up (despite him playing it perfectly, much to Frank’s own surprise). Each song was brought to life as Frank explained the women behind the songs and how vital it is to remember them.
Of particular importance was Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the “…godmother of rock ‘n roll. The original sister of soul,” as Frank describes in the track. Before he paid tribute to her through his song, Frank quipped how he realised this song is about a black woman who’s fame was overshadowed by white men performing the same style as her. Yet, Frank, “ a white man who plays rock and roll for a living” has written a song about her. He continued, stating, “but I think that’s the fucking point”, and “the least I can do is write a song about her”. It is moments like this throughout Frank’s set that show he truly cares about what he does, and is here to educate the masses about these “bad ass women”.
After a short break the atmosphere had grown gradually as fans eagerly awaited Frank’s entry with his band ‘The Sleeping Souls’. A much livelier set, it followed Frank’s song-writing journey and his life on the road up until the present. Focusing largely on failed relationships and love gone wrong, the set gave the audience an insight into Frank’s personal life. Taking us through the ‘Amy Trilogy’, three songs throughout Frank’s life that reference a girl named Amy, who is both a real person, and an idea and mind-state of Franks. The artist described each song and where he was in life when writing it, jokingly telling the audience towards the end, “…tonight’s not just about unhappy love… It’s also about mental health and addiction too”. It was clear that Frank is willing to be personal and vulnerable to connect to his fans as he continues life on the road.
Deep into the night Frank took the time to explain his song ‘Balthazar, Impresario’, a song about being an entertainer. Emotional and raw, the song sums up Frank and the night itself. Speaking before the song, Frank exclaimed, “…all I ever wanted to be was an entertainer,” telling the crowd he pinches himself every morning he wakes up on the tour bus because it is exactly what he does. Tuesday night in Manchester was Frank’s 2428th show, not including the countless gigs, he did with previous bands before going solo too. Frank himself proclaims, “I have spent almost all my adult life on tour”. He uses this experience throughout the night to tell stories of song-writing and how he hopes he has learnt something along the years. It makes it clear; Frank Turner is one of the best live acts in Britain.
The night ended with Frank’s biggest songs and fan-favourites, as the energy increased tenfold. With each song flowing in to each other, Frank gave the crowd no relief as he played ‘Photosynthesis’, ‘Recovery’, and ‘I still believe’ with a kinetic stage presence. Finally, Frank finished with one of his newer songs, ‘Be More Kind’, a song that encapsulates Frank himself and the spirit of his fanbase. An extremely positive end to the set saw the crowd holding their loved ones, swaying whilst singing along to Frank’s most important message of the night. The grandiose venue, Manchester Opera House, showcased a humble Frank Turner at his most intimate, leading to a night nobody in attendance will forget.
You can check out more of Frank Turner’s music here.