491 days. It’s been 491 long days since the last live show I attended. That show occurred on a rainy Sunday night in Southend. The headliner that night – Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. And so it was with a major sense of trepidation (this being on the so called ‘Freedom Day’) and a wonderful sense of anticipation as a result of this fortuitous happenstance that my friend and I found ourselves at the Clapham Grand, being frisked by security, awaiting the first full live headline show from Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls.

That there was a heightened sense of excitement would be an understatement. Main support act Beans on Toast really helped to get the already close to fever pitch crowd in high spirits. The set proved cathartic for artist and fan alike, the venue vibrating with cheers and applause for what was a fabulous set by one of Britain’s best loved hidden gems.

And then the wait began. The audience were in particularly fine voice for a rendition of Champagne Supernova and it was at this point that we started to realise just how good it was to feel something normal. All of a sudden there was the beginning of a sense of hope and an opportunity to look forward to things again. And then it happened. The band came out to play.

If you’ve ever seen a Frank Turner show, you’ll have a pretty good idea already of what to expect. The man knows what his audience wants and he and the band feed on the energy that the audience throw back in spades. Except this was a special night. This was the very first night back. This marked the day that people could hope to get back to normal. 490 days after the government first announced a national lockdown that nobody believed would last for nearly a year and a half, fans and band were back in their natural home together. And everyone in attendance, being more than ready for this night, was going to make sure it was an absolute classic.

It could be argued that Frank Turner fans are some of the most loyal and perhaps fanatical around and for very good reason. Turner’s way with words has an ability to evoke all sorts of emotions for the listener. A normal show is always a loud and emotional affair. But as the first notes of Get Better start up, I’ll admit to feeling completely overwhelmed and perhaps even a little tear or two was shed. In fact, on this night, for the first half an hour or so the occasion completely overwhelmed me. Singing along to the likes of The Road, Plain Sailing Weather, I Am Disappeared and so many other FT classics, it felt for the first time in over a year like I was where I should be, surrounded by my people, all of us there for the pure enjoyment and unity that only a concert of the highest quality can possibly offer.

This was a special show. It would be very easy to say this was a special show just because of the circumstances, and they definitely played a part. More than just the occasion of being back in a full live venue however, this was an excellent show by one of Britain’s very best performers.