ALBUM REVIEW: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – Live In Newcastle (Xtra Mile Recordings/Polydor Records)

For an artist like Frank Turner, who spends much of his life touring, the current lockdown must be a nightmare. So what better way to respond than releasing a new album doing what you do best – playing live?

This new digital-only offering was recorded at the O2 City Hall in Newcastle in November 2019 on his headline tour in support of his most recent studio album, No Man’s Land.

Curiously, it doesn’t include any of the songs from that record – his fourth consecutive UK Top 3 album – because he played them in a slot where he opened for his own band.

It was solo show number 2,429 – “a pretty crazy number by anybody’s standards” – and his 18th in Newcastle, and it’s a departure from the usual thunderous folk-rock-punk of his shows with his long-time backing band The Sleeping Souls.

Frank Turner showed off his skills as a storyteller as well as a songwriter. Pic: Gary Welford.

Unusually for Turner, the audience was all seated, but that ideally suited an unplugged set which spanned his whole career.

Songs from all seven of the albums preceding No Man’s Land featured in a 20-song setlist, starting with The Ballad Of Me And My Friends from his 2007 solo debut Sleep Is For The Week.

It’s a story-telling set which Turner admits was “ a new venture, an experiment, a risk, and in the end a huge success”.

Read our review of the show here: Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls put a new twist on their live show

He proves to be a natural raconteur as well as a skilled songwriter, and the format allows him to tell the sometimes deeply personal stories behind some of the songs.

Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls at the City Hall in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

He doesn’t shy away from his failings, particularly where it comes to relationships, advising never to name a song (Isabelle) after an ex-girlfriend, as it’s a bit awkward explaining to your new wife what it’s doing in your set.

The unplugged format brings a new arrangement of the ever-popular Reasons Not To Re An Idiot, which kicks off an excellent trilogy of songs about another ex called Amy (not her real name), and they’re among the highlights of the set.

The superb acoustics of the venue mean you can hear every note and beat as The Sleeping Souls show what an accomplished band they are in a setting much more relaxed than their usual high-tempo show.

The show was part of Frank Turner’s No Man’s Land tour. Pic: Gary Welford.

The laid-back momentum does pick up as we near the end, but that’s inevitable when Turner hits the 1-2-3 of Photosynthesis, Recovery and I Still Believe, which are three of his best-loved songs.

Closing with the gentler Be More Kind, Turner sent the audience home after a differerent but just as enjoyable night in his company. If you didn’t catch this tour, this album is well worth getting your hands on, as it’ll give you a whole new perspective on the man and his music.

Gary Welford owner