On a grey Thursday evening in Portsmouth, Newton Faulkner (real name Sam Newton Battenberg Faulkner) graced the stage at the Pyramids Centre along the seafront. After the release of his fifth album, Human Love, everyone’s favourite ginger dreadlocked singer has been touring around the UK debuting his new material – except, shock horror, without his signature locks. Now sporting a shaved round-the-sides look with a bun on top, many members of the audience were audibly shocked.
Opening with ‘To the Light’ from his very first album, the crowd rejoiced upon recognising the initial strings and sang along with gusto – creating impressive sound for only a medium sized venue. This eased into ‘I Need Something’, again from his debut Hand Built by Robots, causing the audience to once again take on those notes with some welly. The range of ages and genders, all belting out Newton’s words, was something special to witness.
After this section, Faulkner greeted the audience like old friends and introduced his drummer and keys player as the two Tobys, before launching into some tunes from the new album. ‘Step in the Right Direction’ featured more electric guitar and bass than heard on the album, the effect of which made the audience take notice; the bouncy chorus had everyone dancing about again. This merged into the title track ‘Human Love’, with the reggae beat and summery harmonies triggering some serious moves from the crowd. His percussive style of guitar playing was impeccably demonstrated here, producing xylophone-style noises with a firm thwack. Switching back into acoustic mode, his version of ‘Teardrop’ stunned audience thanks to the power and purity of his voice, even when reaching soaring high notes.
One of the best parts of the night was Faulkner’s cover of Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ (yes, really). Starting with a sped up, offbeat rhythm and beer bottle blowing, this comedic take on the song featured high pitched oohs from both Tobys and the crowd as we all laughed along. Other highlights included the inevitably beautiful performance of ‘Dream Catch Me’, a wave of happy gasps reverberating around the room as it started – everyone sang along, all ending on the same note together. Faulkner’s reaction to this made the performance all the more exceptional, his humble disbelief and beaming head shakes confirming how much he enjoys performing. ‘Up Up and Away’ from Human Love was performed with ease, Hawaiian backing vocals and beachy percussion making it the perfect holiday tune. A dance competition, for the prize of two crazy golf tickets, took place to ‘Passing Planes’ – my personal favourite from the new album. Carnival vibes and cowbell galore, with Spanish guitar and really powerful vocals making this the ultimate festival song.
All in all, this performance from Faulkner certified him as a true star of the musical world, time and again producing outstanding music that makes audiences want to sing, dance and smile along with a man who obviously adores what he does.