Entering the already packed O2 Academy, I could feel the excitement in the room, grabbing myself a pint only to then look up to see a man under the spotlight wearing a white suit covered in red flowers. This man would be The Homeless Gospel Choir, also known as Derek Zanetti. Frank Turner had hand-picked his support acts and had previously spoken very highly of Zanetti, stating that his record ‘Normal’ is “a generationally defining album for the underground punk scene.” He also went on to say that “In half an hour, Derek reminded me of what punk is supposed to be”.
As the set of protest songs were played, the room soon warmed to the captivating punk, a dab here and a middle finger there, then followed with a speech about togetherness and the punk community being a family. Zanetti was soaking in every single second. Just as things seemed to calm down, The Arkells came on stage to play with The Homeless Gospel Choir for his final song, to perform what could be his most popular song, ‘Normal’.
A quick swap around in equipment, and The Arkells were up and running. “Let’s find that Friday night vibe Liverpool!”, performing their new single ‘People’s Champ’, The Arkells certainly didn’t fail in finding that vibe. Half way through their set, Max Kerman (lead singer, guitar) stairs into the crowd and yells “Who plays guitar here?” choosing a random fan from the front row, Kerman shouts “Get the fuck up here then!”. The young lad performs on stage with the band for a track before returning to the crowd, and If the set hadn’t been action packed already, it soon was when Kerman then hops off stage, hurdles the barrier and performs ‘Leather Jacket’ as the crowd circle round him. With their set coming to a close, the room had been injected with energy, even Derek Zanetti was spotted backstage grooving and loving life.
The ominous looking clock on the side of the stage finally hits 21:00 and Lean on Me by Bill Withers starts to echo through the room, The Sleeping Souls fly out onto the stage and jump into position before the drums and bass kick in for the opening of ‘1933’. Not far behind is Frank Turner, looking fitter and better than ever since recently recovering from a damaged throat, leading to him cancelling a handful of shows. Turner went on to showcase a few tracks from the upcoming album, including singles such as ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Blackout’. When performing M.A.G.A the song contains a lyric which says, ‘let’s make America great again, by making racists ashamed again’, but when in conversation with the crowd after the song, he protested that racists should be ashamed no matter where they are!
The rest of the evening was quite normal…for a Frank Turner gig, prolific swearing, constant mosh pitting and the odd crowd surf. The highlight of the show has to be when the band played ‘Four Simple Words’, Turner grabbed the mic, made his way into the crowd and picked out a random member of the crowd, before dancing with her and then crowd surfing his way back to the stage.
If there was ever any doubt about Frank Turner, with the release of his new album and the illness he had suffered earlier in the tour, that doubt was most definitely silenced. Finishing on the unusual choice of ‘Polaroid Picture’ it was a perfect moment for the crowd to take a few minutes to reflect on what an incredible, action packed evening it had been.