REVIEW: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Whitley Bay Playhouse

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

The Playhouse in Whitley Bay is a smashing little venue, but it won't have seen many shows like this.

With a capacity of 630, it is a popular stopping-off point on the '60s and '70s nostalgia and tribute act circuit, while also hosting comedians, kids' shows and community events.

It's not the sort of place you'd expect to see an Eton-educated folk-punk who used to sing in a hardcore band.

But that's exactly what it got last night as Frank Turner brought his band The Sleeping Souls to town for a sold-out gig as part of the Mouth of the Tyne festival.

They've played here before, five years ago, when they opened the same event, but things have gone stratospheric for Turner since then.

He played at the opening ceremony for the London Olympics in 2012, filled Wembley Arena the same year, and had two albums reach the No 2 slot in the UK charts.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

But he remembers where he's come from, which is why he puts just as much energy into a more intimate show like this one, as he does into bigger ones.

It's an all-seated venue, but they didn't get used much, as the crowd were on their feet from the start; yes, Turner was preaching to the converted here.

He bounced on stage like Tigger on too much blue pop and launched into a full-blooded version of I Still Believe, one of the standout tracks from 2011 album England Keep My Bones.

For the next 90 minutes there was scarcely any let-up in the pace, except for the parts of the show where he stood alone with his acoustic guitar - a throwback to how it all began after he went solo back in 2005.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

He's been backed by his four-piece band - Ben Lloyd on guitar, Tarrant Anderson on bass, Matt Nasir on piano and Nigel Powell on drums - for a decade now, and they're as tight as you'd expect a band who tour so relentlessly to be.

The last time I saw them, at Newcastle University in November, Turner seemed energised by anger, incensed at the loss of a friend, Nick Alexander, in the Paris attack on the Eagles of Death metal gig.

Tonight he was in much happier mood, and determined to make sure everyone, including himself, had a good time. He teased the crowd with AC/DC riffs and indulged in a bit of gameshow host-style interaction - even if he did forget the words to one of his own songs - "I've got a lot of songs, all right?"

The setlist mined all six studio albums, with the emphasis being on the last two, 2013's Tape Deck Heart and last year's Positive Songs For Negative People.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

The likes of Recovery, The Next Storm, Glorious You and Mittens were all lapped up by the fans, who returned his energy in spades, and made the seating deck literally bounce at times.

But there were some old crowd favourites thrown in too - a stunning I Am Disappeared from England Keep My Bones, The Road from Poetry Of The Deed and Long Live The Queen and main set closer Photosynthesis from Love Ire & Song.

The night ended with a four-song encore which began, somewhat bizarrely, with an acoustic rendition of the Flanders and Swann song The Armadillo, and ended with Turner doing his best to crowd-surf in the all-seated hall during a blistering Four Simple Words.

He promised they'll be back in the North East at the end of the year for another tour. This night - solo show number 1,924 - will take some beating.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Whitley Bay Playhouse. Pic: Gary Welford