“Cause we’ve been waiting and wandering, practicing and praying, saving and slavering. Gathering ourselves for The Gathering”.
After what can only be described as a dismal year for the music and hospitality industry, punk-folk artist Frank Turner is back where he belongs, in front of a crowd.
Top Rope Brewery, Bootle, Liverpool (who have recently collaborated with Frank in producing The Gathering, a 4.8% deliciously punk IPA) played host to Frank’s only northern Gathering show and what an evening it was.
Frank arrived on stage to rapturous applause, looking noticeably healthier than his pre-lockdown appearances. While he confesses to have missed playing live shows, the break has clearly done him good. He appears calmer, happier and as you would expect from Frank, humbled to be playing live again.
He begins his set with a familiar favourite, ‘The Ballad of me and my friends’, it is a perfect opener. Frank reminds fans of the need to remain socially distanced and to keep each other safe. It is clear the pandemic has devastated him and he is noticeably grateful for the crowd’s reception and adherence to the rules.
The evening continues with a plethora of older tracks “in chronological order” Frank chimes, all of which have the crowd belting out the lyrics in unison.
Frank plays the opening chords of ‘The Next Storm’ and for a moment, the audience is paralysed. “We had a difficult winter; we had a rough few months”. The song talks about “Blitz spirit” and spending “the whole of my life indoors”. Frank admits he had no idea how relevant the lyrics would become when he penned it. He pays homage to all those in the industry who have struggled during the pandemic, particularly his crew members.
While Frank looks rested, it is evident that he has not stopped working during the lockdown months of the pandemic. The release of new song, ‘The Gathering’, featuring Jason Isbell and Muse drummer Dom Howard is Frank’s first material in almost two years and follows the album ‘No Man’s Land’, released in 2019. This evening’s show is a celebration of the ethos behind the new track.
“It’s a song about what we’ve been missing, that sense of coming together and how ready I am to get back to it”, he comments.
Frank treats the crowd to new track, ‘Punches’ from his eagerly awaited forthcoming album. For fans, this offering is a welcome return to his punk roots.
There is time for a few more old favourites: ‘Get Better’, ‘Recovery’ and the song that arguably launched Turner into a big player on the music scene, ‘I still Believe’.
Frank concludes his set with the poignant ‘Polaroid Picture’.
“Let go of the little distractions, hold close to the ones that you love. Because we won’t all be here this time next year, while you can take a picture of us.’
During the track, most of the audience reached for their phones and hit the selfie button. Capturing themselves at a gig, surrounded by fellow fans for the first time in almost two years.
The sense of togetherness was overwhelmingly beautiful.
‘The World has turned on its axis and the only thing certain is that everything changes’, sings Frank.
Everything except that thrill of being at a live gig and the strum of that very first chord.
Thank you Frank, for the reminder.
Man did we need it.