This was the twelfth time that I have seen Frank Turner live, fourteenth if I count one Möngöl Hörde show and a Million Dead gig. This was also the first time that I had been to any gig in Newcastle. I was accompanied by my wonderful wife Catwoman a.k.a. Catherine, she is also a fan of Mr. Turner. I was also lucky enough to catch up with top bloke and all-round decent geezer Scott, who I met through those nice folks at 3 Songs & Out. So from a social and personal perspective which looked like a great night, the venue was pretty classy too. So how was the music? The first support was Australian singer-songwriter, Emily Barker. She gave us a beautiful and highly accomplished acoustic set. She gave a towering acapella performance of a Sister Rosetta Tharpe gospel song and “Sister Goodbye” a song about Rosetta Tharpe from the perspective of a woman who might have been her lover, Marie Knight (more of Rosetta later). Emily’s own songs are particularly classy and very deep lyrically, particularly “No. 5 Hurricane” and “Sunrise”. Emily also covered the Boss with a sharp take on “Tougher Than The Rest”. I will be checking out more of Emily Barker’s stuff and I recommend that you do that too.
Well, there was no second support act as such because Frank Turner was his own second support act. Kicking off proceedings with an acoustic set of songs from his latest album ‘No Mans Land’. It featured more than half of the songs from the record and had Frank telling the stories behind each song in a truncated version of the podcasts that accompanied the release. The tales are of women who are either not recognised in history or certainly not given as much credit as they deserved. There are some wonderful stories in these songs, far too many for me to tell here, so click this link and take a listen to the podcasts. He kicked off with a rousing “Jinny Bingham’s Ghost” the story of a woman who resided in Camden hundreds of years ago and is said to still haunt the Worlds End pub and the Underworld night club. It has taken me a long while to warm to the ‘No Mans Land’ album but hearing the songs in this environment really made me appreciate them so much more. Particular highlights for me were “I Believed You William Blake”, “The Hymn of Kassiani” and “Sister Rosetta”, essentially the stories of William Blake’s wife, Kassiana the woman who turned down a King and very unsung guitar hero and pioneer Rosetta Tharpe. However the closing “Lioness”, about early 20th century Egyptian feminist leader Huda Sha’arawi and contains the awe-inspiring lyrical couplet “She isn’t going to hide her face anymore. She isn’t going to know her place anymore”. I think that “Lioness” is one of Frank’s best songs.
After a short break, Frank returned to the stage for a seated unplugged style set with the Sleeping Souls. This set was a mostly chronological walk through the Turner back catalogue giving the stories behind many of his well-known numbers and quite a few of the deeper album cuts. The twenty song set was mostly lively and upbeat, although the energy dropped a little for me in the middle. The band opened with a pair of songs that got the audience ready to rock and dance, although we all remained seated until very near the end, how polite are us British folks? Those songs were “The Ballad of Me and My Friends” and “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous” from 2007 and 2008 respectively. Frank told us a tale of first coming to live in London as a teenager and wandering around introspectively in a trenchcoat trying to be different but essentially looking just like every other teenage hopeful or chancer, that introduced the stirring and clever “One Foot Before The Other”. We were also treated to the best live performances of “Reasons Not to Be an Idiot” and “I Am Disappeared” that I have experienced to date. But for me, the best was saved to last and the faux encore which began with “Photosynthesis” which is a song that it is impossible to sit down to, so we didn’t, everyone got up for that. The first line of the chorus is “I won’t sit down”, how could anyone ignore such a call to arms (or should that be a call to feet). I don’t know why but “I Still Believe” always stirs me to tears, admittedly they are happy tears and both Catwoman and I gave ourselves sore throats singing along to it. Frank and the Sleeping Souls closed with perhaps one of the finest songs of their recent releases, “Be More Kind” a heartfelt message to those of us surviving this sad, mad, bad modern world. So whatever you do try to aspire to that song and “be more kind, my friend, try to be more kind”
All the photos apart from the gig poster were taken on my cheap android phone. The videos were all found on YouTube if one of them is yours and you would like a credit or for me to remove it please let me know.
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