The Gathering comes to Manchester. Frank Turner, the Souls and the travelling roadshow return to The Apollo for the first time in ten years.
“Let’s begin at the beginning”
A late switch from the planned venue – Urmston Sports Club – to the relative comfort of an indoor festival type of ‘thing’ with an early start and test of endurance for those who kept vigil at the barrier for five hours plus. The Gathering, headlined by Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – the only Northern full band show hence the appeal – had a certain (post) Punk feel about it and a politically sound gender balance.
So with Jess Guise and Ducking Punches from Norwich raising the curtain, followed by the well named Deux Furieuses following the Royal Blood template and realising that a guitar and drums makes a decent sound together, there was a top class, hand picked support bill.
Colchester Punks for the modern age (ie, no safety pins or gobbing), Pet Needs – Xtra Mile recording artistes no less – seemed totally stoked to be on the label and on the tour. With the Turner endorsement and the rapid fire delivery, they’re a band who fit the the proverbial ‘watch out for…’ label.
“Things didn’t kill me but I don’t feel stronger”
And of course we all know the Frank Turner template; don’t be a dickhead (especially if your family is in the room) , if you know the words sing along and look out for each other. The latter making its way into the song that gave the title to the tour – The Gathering – “this is our mantra, we gather together, look out for each other.” What he calls his ‘coming out of lockdown’ song and one that reinforces the sense of community that every Frank Turner show (of which this was #2540 incidentally) is about.
For many it was the first show back and the sense of euphoria was palpable, even for those who went for the seated (but with the option to stand up and have a bit of space) area in the circle. A most welcome, fan friendly set saw the quintet belt out ‘the hits’ with gusto and had the boss blinking the sweat from his eyes within the first handful of songs. Each of course with the opportunity to do the sing along bit, the audience participation bit (won’t sit down/won’t shut up etc…) or the jumping around having been encouraged to get the dancing shoes on.
The one brand new number – in fact what’s destined to be the opening number on the new album due early 2022 – Non Serviam was devastatingly brutal. In the mould of the Million Dead/Mongol Horde philosophy and on the familiar Turner theme of standing up for what you believe in (inspiration coming from the conversation between God and Satan…), the “How was that? Alright?” enquiry at the conclusion was probably as apt as anything after you’ve beaten a few thousand over the head with a baseball bat.
“Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings”
A brief solo spot where the gentle delivery and sentiment of Be More Kind received a significantly long ovation prefaced a personal high point with the return of the Sleeping Souls for I Knew Prufrock Before he Became Famous. The final lap and downhill stretch – no wonder on of the setlist with security noted the brief of “encore – liveliest four songs.”
Ultimately, regardless of bold and brash new songs and the chance to get familiar with the Turner showstoppers, this was about the reaffirmation of gathering together to celebrate live music. The celebration of community, almost a blitz spirit with Frank leading from the front with a series of Churchillian inspirational speeches. Manchester Pride and his wife and bandmates are all singled out for special mentions as normal service shakily begins to resume.
Yes, it’s been a long wait, especially getting into the venue where we all show our validation for being in a large gathering. The road has been a rocky one and many haven’t made it through; enough to remind us all that we should appreciate what we have and the here and now. Carpe Diem and all that . Who’d have thought that after all, something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all? And that a tall fella in a white shirt and ripped jeans would be leading the charge.