@ Newcastle Northumbria University, March 15 2010

Frank Turner was back in Newcastle accompanied by former Hot Water Music star Chuck Ragan and Crazy Arm. You don’t often see three good acts at one gig but tonight at Northumbria University was one of those exceptions.

Crazy Arm were very easy to listen to and watch, easing the crowd into the night effortlessly and seemingly pleasing everybody. Even without the carefully sculpted light show the guys’ set would have been fulfilling and it was difficult to not feel influenced by their lively and enthusiastic nature.

Witnessing Chuck Ragan in his element was a delight and privilege. After hearing his split with Alkaline Trio, I was left undecided over the musician’s originality but tonight’s set left me without any doubt in my mind as to his ability.

Chuck belted out his songs with that unique, husky voice and it’s a wonder he had the breath to sing after playing his harmonica and guitar at the same time. The combination of his voice, the harmonica and the characteristic double bass and violin made for a one-off experience.

Watching the singer-songwriter play a song alone was another rarity altogether, as he had a way of drawing your attention as an individual towards him rather than as a collective crowd.

Unfortunately, although Frank Turner played a good set it was a disappointment in comparison to last time out in Newcastle. He seemed to blast through his first few songs with his usual fuelled enthusiasm but the rest of the set was a let down.

He seemed more interested in mentioning the fact that he had been in America recently and flown in on an aeroplane from Chicago yesterday than playing for his fans. Yes Frank, old boy. We’ve probably all flown on a plane before.

But he balanced old and new songs expertly and his voice rang out as loud as ever. In truth, however, the only highlights were probably his song with Ragan and John Gaunt, his violinist, along with Frank managing to break the fundamental string needed for his fast-approaching solo. Ever the professional he battled on through. But that’s what this set was: a battle.

Chiara Giordano