LIVE REVIEW: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls @ Newcastle University Students’ Union (28.01.23) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Iam Burn

It’s the old rock and roll cliché, when the performer mercilessly panders to the audience, telling them they are special, different or even the greatest city in the world. It’s a lie we’re fed gig after gig, bountifully lapping it up without thought, despite knowing that ultimately it’s superficial and hollow.

If Frank Turner’s 2020 release Live in Newcastle doesn’t give his hyperbolic claims more brevity, then the 26 song setlist that filled Newcastle University Students’ Union certainly does. This may be my naivety showing, but I refuse to believe that Newcastle isn’t a special place for Frank and the band, I hang onto his every word as he rattles through the clichés but this time I believe them; the charisma of the man is undeniable and unaffected by size or venue. 

From the off, the gruff star bounds onto stage with an immediacy and vitality that refuses to falter. Engaging the crowd within seconds, Turner promises a night “of punk songs, country songs and good old fashioned rock and roll songs.”

The night sees the crowd calling back every word as Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls rip through their illustrious catalogue of energetic, impassioned and political anthems. Even when the backing band slip away, leaving Turner alone for a handful of tracks, the frontman had an iron grip on his audience that he couldn’t relinquish.

Performed with honesty and heart, the mountainous setlist was cannoned though as the artist delivered hit after hit, peppering each track with a rousing battle cry or personal anecdote. 

By the time the encore arrived, the band had already seen through a 22 song show that lived up to every promise of fun and showmanship that Turner had established at the start, yet this didn’t slow them down slightly as they launched into the last leg of the performance, churning out the biggest hits of the band’s career with the same life and exuberance that opened the show almost two hours previously.

Either Turner has mastered the art of feigning sincerity, or this night in Newcastle was as special for him as it was for everyone else. 

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