Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls have provided listeners with perfect lockdown listening material.
Frank Turner is well known at his gigs to rally up the crowd through his loud and excitable sound. However, uncharacteristically, last year Turner took to the stage with his band The Sleeping Souls and performed an unplugged set to seated audiences around the UK.
In these unprecedented times, it is sometimes hard to remember what being at a gig actually feels like. But, fear no more; Turner and his band are releasing their newest album Live In Newcastle, with material captured at O2 City Hall Newcastle (show number 2429 for Turner) from last November, on Friday 24th April, providing many, many fans with the perfect listening material for comfort and enjoyment.
A success of any live album is being able to hear the audience. Hearing their enjoyment truly puts into perspective the power of live gigs, and the wonderful communal spirit that is felt within them. This aspect is especially poignant now that live gigs are postponed for an indefinite period, so it’s safe to say that Live In Newcastle definitely makes the prospect of live gigs after the lockdown even more exciting. The release of Live In Newcastle during this time also highlights how dedicated Turner is to his fans and to live music in general. As many may be aware, Turner has been live-streaming a performance from home each week, in order to raise money for independent venues. Among others, he raised over £10,000 for The Joiners in Southampton, and saved it from imminent closure.
The main success of this live album in particular is hearing Turner’s humble and friendly nature. On studio albums, listeners are only able to hear the music and often lose the entire personality of the artist. Turner is always engaging in live shows, but this show in particular was so special because of the stories told before each song. I won’t give everything away about these back-stories, but they are definitely worth the listen as Turner’s story-telling skills are just as impeccable as his musicianship, and will have you laughing along with the crowd.
The set-list of Live In Newcastle is immaculate. Turner treats his fans to some older material, such as ‘Substitute’ and ‘Reasons Not to Be an Idiot’, but also sings out his recent bangers, like ‘Don’t Worry’. It’s impossible to speak of every single song performed, as all have their own memorable aspects. However, to sum up the set-list Turner himself admits that the first two thirds of the show are about “unhappy love”. Somehow, though, Turner transforms the ‘unhappy’ nature of these songs into an entirely addictive and energy-filled performance that will have every listener encompassed in feelings of joy through the power of live music.
The power of music itself is also summed up perfectly by Turner before ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’, as he admits that despite struggling with feelings of addiction and hopelessness in the past, he has “always had music”. The performance of this song in particular is definitely worth mentioning, as Turner and the band effectively transformed its sound, sounding notably different to the studio version. The live version is certainly groovier, and easier to move to, and more experimental with hints of reggae.
Before performing ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’, Turner announces that these songs are stories of the “things that I’ve learned” in his adult years and on tour. This sums up the majority of the set-list choice, as he explains on the fourth track that ‘Substitute’ is an “anti-love song” and jokes about the naivety of his younger self naming ‘Isabel’ after an ex-girlfriend.
Another notable song on this album is ‘The Way I Tend To Be’, from Tape Deck Heart (2013). The studio version is rather uplifting and filled with energy, but Turner’s performance at this show modifies its tempo by slowing it down rather significantly. The effect is extremely successful, as the attention is focussed entirely on the power of his vocals and the song is transformed from an otherwise dance-worthy tune to a song filled with much more sadness and emotion.
‘There She Is’ also features, from Be More Kind (2017), and this performance demonstrates Turner’s seemingly well-rounded musical talent as he performs at the piano whilst singing. The back-story to this song is the most sweet on this whole album, so it’s definitely worth the listen even if it’s just to hear this.
The song most worth noting on this set-list is definitely ‘I Am Disappeared’. From Turner’s 2011 album England Keep My Bones, this song performed live is entirely transformed. Turner and the band open with the most gorgeous vocals heard on the entire album, demonstrating their amazing musical abilities perfectly. The harmonies heard are hauntingly beautiful and this haunting impact is heightened when the breaks in the music and vocals reveal the complete silence of the crowd (which, if anyone has ever attended a Turner concert, is rare).
A song which sums up the energy poured into Turner’s music is ‘Photosynthesis’, which he announces is “about not sitting down”. The studio version is incredibly energy-filled, but the live version is outstandingly feel-good and is best played on full volume. From the entire crowd singing along perfectly to “I won’t sit down, and I won’t shut up”, to an incredibly impressive electric mandolin solo, this live performance has it all.
Live In Newcastle is perfectly suited to any Frank Turner fan, with songs ranging from 12 years old to songs released just a couple of years ago, but it’s also perfect for anyone passionate about live music. It’s so clear that despite being a seated event, Turner and his band successfully rallied up the crowd with their energetic and gorgeous performances. To be quite honest, the only word that perfectly sums up Live In Newcastle is flawless; providing laughs with his story-telling, joy through the gorgeous music presented and hope in a time when gigs feel like a distant future away.
Live in Newcastle will be released on Friday 24th April via Xtra Mile Recordings/Polydor Records.