Six months on, and singer-songwriter Frank Turner is back in Newcastle, playing to an even bigger audience, as he hits up Northumbria University, accompanied by legendary Hot Water Music frontman Chuck Ragan and Plymouth punk rockers Crazy Arm, to kick off the first date of his UK tour.
A chilly night outside, Crazy Arm have the job to warm up the crowd and that they do well, as they unleash their brand of ear-splitting and aggressive melodic punk rock, with some of the slickest of licks, combined with the powerfully gravely vocals of frontman Darren Johns, playing a very tight and impressive set, gaining them a few new fans along the way, no doubt.
It seems to be all the rage these days, punk rock frontmen turning acoustic, and Chuck Ragan is most definitely at the top of the league, as he takes to the stage to deliver a short selection of his stripped-down folksy songs, including The Boat and Rotterdam, along with the simple aid of a double bass and violin player. Even to those unfamiliar, you can’t help but be entranced by his sheer enthusiasm and soulfully husky voice. Sadly, though, it all seems to be over within the bat of an eyelid.
It’s pretty astonishing that Frank Turner was on a plane from Chicago less than 24-hours, after finishing a US tour in order to make it to Newcastle tonight as he starts his one-and-a-half-hour-long set in a rather unorthodox manner – with usual set closer Photosynthesis, featuring the poignant sing-a-long of, “And I play, and you sing, the perfect way for the evening to begin…”, well and truly proving to be “the perfect way for the evening to begin.”
The unordinaries don’t end there, with a few of the usual ‘hits’ omitted from the setlist, the lack of Substitute and Love Ire & Song is a bit disappointing, but we’ve heard them all before, so a set switch-up is rather commendable, looking back.
However, this means that there’s a whole lot of room for new, as he plays a smattering of pub-folk tunes from Poetry of Deed, with the likes of Isabel and Faithful Son getting a chance to shine and adding a further freshness to the set, along with Frank’s fancy new lights creating more of a spectacle and an increasingly hot room of sweaty bodies.
Naturally, there’s still a whole host of Love Ire & Song favourites thrown into the mix, as Long Live The Queen, The Decemberists-esque To Take You Home and the fittingly-appropriate Jet Lag all get an airing, providing huge sing-songs.
Of course, the obligatory first-night-of-the-tour-fuck-ups occur as the former Million Dead frontman breaks a string mid-song before his fast-approaching solo, but it’s all met with professionalism and laughter. There’s sound difficulties during the encore of Revival Rock, featuring Mr. Ragan, but it swiftly gets resolved, proving to be a highlight, before ending with single The Road, resulting in another consistently good performance, overall; the sky’s the limit for our fellow Englishman.
– Faye Turnbull.