Truckstop Honeymoon, a husband and wife duo from America, opened the show at Leeds O2 Academy with some rolling country blues led by Mike West playing a battered old acoustic guitar and occasional banjo, while Katie West was wrangling an enormous upright double bass. 

The authenticity and storytelling ability of this musical couple who have lived a life on the road, mentally transported the O2 Academy crowd, on a rainy night in Leeds, straight to a freight train wagon packed with wandering troubadours,  while the train rolls though the plains of southern U.S.A.

Introducing each song with an anecdote rich in southern charm and irreverent crowd banter, before embarking on the kind of jaunty tunes with shades of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, they played the kind of tracks that would sit right at home on a classic gun slinging western movie soundtrack, with quirky titles like Mardi Gras In Kansas and Your Mother Is A Sociopath.

Colchester’s Pet Needs, very much the polar opposite of Truckstop Honeymoon, are four lads playing energetic, no frills, pop punk rock. Frontman Johnny Marriott filled with boundless energy, ricocheted from one side of the stage to the other, raising his mic stand aloft, and hollering frenetic lyrics at the crowd. Pet Need’s whole set fired out one 2-minute intense punk tune after another until, without warning, they took a solitary and sudden pause for breath as the entire band froze, refusing to move. Tension built until it ignited excitable cheers from the crowd and seeming satisfied, the band launched into their next song.

Having signed to Xtra Mile Recordings for their second album Primetime Entertainment, the same label as the headline act of the night, Frank Turner himself, Pet Needs have been accompanying Frank Turner on his UK tour, and recently had the pleasure of “quitting the day job” to do this full time, prompting a huge supportive round of applause from the crowd. Gratitude to Frank was evident as they dedicated the rest of their set to him, smashing out their final few stabs of high tempo, high gain, high energy brand of punk rock.

Now that enough people had squeezed into the o2 Academy Leeds to the point it was bursting at the seams, it was time for Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls to emerge.

Frank Turner is one of those artists that inspires an impressive level of devotion from his fanbase. Opening with Four Simple Words and The Gathering, it didn’t take long before Turner’s anthemic singalong folk punk reached top speed with the crowd singing along to every word. People were singing right from the front of the pit to the very back of the bar. It’s an interesting collection of people too, I saw plenty of Mohawks and even a couple of bucket hats, headgear accessories that rarely mix. It looks like Frank Turner has hit the sweet spot of hardcore politically and emotionally intelligent punk, that wears its heart on its sleeve; although catchy acoustic singalong anthems are so much the domain of the traditional stadium rock band that Turner would probably cringe at if I compared the two.

Before the start of the rousing acoustically led Photosynthesis, Frank deftly walked the tightrope of hyping the crowd up as much as possible, whilst reminding them to look after each other and not to force people to mosh if they don’t want to. A tricky speech to nail but he’s clearly been doing this for years and struck the perfect balance. The show was densely packed with as many songs as The Sleeping Souls could squeeze into their two hour set. Hopping deftly between acoustic and electric guitar, Frank was left to his own devices in the 3rd quarter for some pensive solo acoustic tunes, before the band roared back to finish with one his biggest tunes I Still Believe.

Watching his headline performance, it now makes total sense why he’s able to hire both an acoustic country duo and a lovably yobby punk band as his opening acts, because if you carefully weld those two genres together, you arrive at the epic folk punk sound that Frank Turner has spent 17 years crafting. This evening was Turner’s 2694th gig. There’s no doubt in his mind that when he returns, his devoted followers from the city of Leeds will be right there with him.