Album Review

Frank Turner – Live In Newcastle: Album Review

A download-only release from Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls recorded on their 2019 tour (show #2429) as the acoustic format takes centre stage. Frank becomes what he dreamed of and takes to the road.

Release Date: 24th April 2020

Label: Xtra Mile Recordings

Formats: DL

Always on the road. “I’ve spent most of my adult life on tour,” he admits. Always gigging and always at the forefront as a spokesperson with a voice of reason. Taking a break allows the man let those of us who missed his most recent outing to get up to speed with a recording of a night in Newcastle with a variation on the Frank Turner format.

He’s not averse to switching things around. Playing Cambridge Folk Festival and Download in the same year, appearing on Mastermind with Iron Maiden as his specialist subject, author and frontman of the Sleeping Souls be it in full (and full on) electric mode or in this case, slightly stripped back.

Recorded at the famous Newcastle City Hall show back in November 2019 in support of the No Man’s Land album. It saw the singer/songwriter playing two unplugged sets per night featuring songs from the back catalogue as well as “introspective and deeply personal discussions of the material, shedding new light on old favourites”.

Perhaps as a concession to the seated audience, the cover image pictures Frank strangely sitting down a la Robert Fripp and yes, it emphasises the ‘same picture different frame’ nature of events. And there’s plenty of chat and banter – “tonight we’re going to tell some stories” – we know he’s a raconteur of quality having experienced several of his book chat conversation type appearances over the years.

The chat is as vital to the set as the songs. Unlike Springsteen on Broadway, there’s a natural unscripted delivery despite the well thought out narrative of the story telling nature and “public therapy” (there’s a candidly open confessional aspect) of the music.

And this time these songs are sung rather than belted out. I Am Disappeared is taken right down to the wire with the tired frustration of the lyric coming through perfectly with the acapella opening. There might have been an emphasis on unhappy love (and mental health and addiction), but joy and energy burst through. There’s a happy ending with weddings and becoming more tolerant.

It’s lovely to hear the songs given a subtle and considered re-evaluation. There’s an element of rediscovery about some numbers. An early highlight is a gorgeous Journey Of The Magi that takes on a more country swing /sitting on the porch vibe.

Reasons Not To Be An Idiot gets a revamp into a fifties rock and roll style via the ghost of Scotty Moore, but my favourite Frank song, The Way I Tend To Be from the wonderfully therapeutic Tape Deck Heart, is stunning. Sydney International Airport and bad decisions about phone calls to ex-partners have a lot to answer for. You can feel the ache. In the same way he took the melancholy of The Levellers’ Julie and turned it into an uplifting call to arms, he tweaks the already stinging emotional impact beyond eleven into a graceful hymn.

It’s not the end of the story for sure and you get the impression (I wasn’t there so just a wild assumption) that as the life-affirming Photosynthesis kicks in, people are on their feet singing about not growing up. A chance for some letting down of hair as the band kick into a jug band version and give a rousing gig climax. Three simple words – be more kind.

Meanwhile I’m heading back to …Magi and The Way I Tend To Be and trying not to lose it.

Listen to a solo acoustic Sister Rosetta from the No Man’s Land album at Glasto in 2019 here:

Frank Turner online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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