Frank Turner & Skinny Lister @ Academy 1
Skinny Lister are a 6-piece folk band who are pleasantly wonderful. They converted the audience from a quiet murmur into a partisan crowd at the Manchester Academy. They reminded me of my old stomping grounds down at the Cambridge Folk Festival. I say stomping grounds; it was a straw hat and beard sort of affair at the time, which is quite fitting considering the current hipster trend. Anyway, I digress. Skinny Lister played an eclectic mix of their songs, which allowed the audience to relax into the music. This Is War brought with it a thunderous stomp along vibe, which really built up the energy of the onlookers. Max and Lorna Thomas have a natural rapport with one another, and I’m confident their sound gets compared with The Pogues every other day. That’s not a bad thing; The Pogues are just as good as Skinny Lister. The one difference being, I’ve never seen anyone from The Pogues crowd surf like Michael Camino did, with a double bass in his hands. That deserved the entrance fee alone.
Skinny Lister finished their set with ‘Forty Pound Wedding’, which sat well with the crowd, ready and suitably warmed for Mister Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls.
Frank Turner is so much more than a man. Frank Turner is a thoughtful, considerate, kind human being. He is the hero behind the Agent of Change campaign. He is attempting to save lives with his live shows, by touring with a bone marrow donor stall in the foyer of his gigs. This man truly cares about humanity; in between his two sold out nights at Manchester Academy 1 he visited a local University to share his knowledge with the next generation of musicians. This guy is a role model and the people who know about him, respect him deeply.
The crowd was dynamic in age and in fashion sense, and in despite of recent tragedy the people felt safe. Security was heightened outside to make sure there were no incidents, and once inside, people could let loose. The room was packed. Fully packed. Like a fat kid at a cake shop with a free pass kind of packed. Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls took to the stage.
Positive Songs for Negative People
Frank played 28 majestic creations of wonder and each was as spellbinding as the previous. The stories he sang, and the choruses that were sang back at him created an affinity with the audience. It was as though everyone was given a songbook on the way in. The drinks were well and truly flowing, and two hours shot past in the blink of an eye. Here’s the recap:
They opened to rapture. Absolute mayhem. Then proceeded to play Get Better, If Ever I Stray, Losing Days and One Foot Before The Other before stopping to mention that it was show number 1792. This was the Monday show, so if you were at Tuesday’s show then clearly it’d be 1793. #Schooled. From here Frank split the audience in half (as a collective, not individually), and offered a drum skin to the liveliest half of the room.
Next up came Out Of Breath and The Road and you could feel the tender construction of poetry within each song. The next interaction with the audience came in the form of two fantastic rules. ‘1. Don’t be a dickhead. 2. If you know the words you gotta fucking sing em!’ at which point, the whole room sang along to Peggy Sang The Blues. It was spine tingling. Add a little ad-hoc Maiden + Metallica played badly (his words, not mine) and we’re a fraction of our way through the set. It was incredible. Josephine, Polaroid Picture, I Am Disappeared, Long Live The Queen, The Opening Act Of Spring, these guys were swinging for the fences, and were spot on every single time. They dispensed these tracks like they were tearaways on a motorcyclist helmet, but to us they were solid gold. We lapped them up. We were undeniably eating out of the hand of the Sleeping Souls and the virtuoso known as Frank Turner.
Then something strange happened. The vibe changed, the Souls left the stage, leaving it bare but for one shadow, one outline, Frank. He played The Ballad Of Me And My Friends and we were fixated. Hooked on this lonely figure in front of well over 2000 people. This man looked lonely, but he had everyone in attendance on his side. We were enthralled by one man, who had a dedication to deliver.
Frank began playing Demons and it had such a raw focus to it, it was as if he had just tapped into each person individually with this message. The passion and emotion from the crowd was eerie, but positive.
A couple of tracks later and the band came back on stage to plough through the monster set they had in store for us. Wessex Boy, Photosynthesis, Plain Sailing Weather, Try This At Home, The Next Storm. The list is practically endless and seeing as Frank is celebrating his tenth year as a singer/songwriter, you can understand why.
After a brief stage break, The five ever so talented musicians returned to finish their ever so satisfying set with The Angel Islington, The Way I Tend To Be, I Still Believe and before departing they thanked everyone for not only coming out, but for believing in them as musicians, and for having the belief in the little label that sends out these wonderful artists for the world to behold. They finished off with the fan favourite, Four Simple Words and everyone went home in a great mood.
Words: Tom Blackwell | Photos: Cai Dixon