From the lighting to Newton's lightning Finger Tips, this impressive show wasn't as impressive as the skills of the man himself.
After the heat of the Easter bank holiday weekend, warm (and fuzzy) feelings continued during a night of live music from Newton Faulkner to coincide with the release of Newton’s new album, The Very Best of Newton Faulkner… So Far.
First came support from Charlotte, a singer hailing from Hull who was as much a fan of Newton as the rest of the audience were. You could certainly see where she got her inspiration for her effortless jokey rapport with the crowds. Accompanied by a guitarist and later on by herself as pianist, Charlotte stunned us with her beautiful voice and personal lyrics. She started and ended on a high, with her first release ‘I Tell Lies’ and her final song, latest single ‘Nervous’, which perfectly encapsulated that feeling of loving someone and still getting nervous when they’re in the room. She didn’t sing a bum note, and she sang a whole lot of them. She also treated us to an incredible jazzy Django Reinhardt inspired Childish Gambino cover of ‘Redbone’ (yes, an actual cover, not a meme). After that, I was sold.
For all the complicated tech on stage and all the impressive lighting rigs that made the night so visually spectacular, Newton kept things beautifully simple. It was just him, his guitars and the guy helping him juggle them. He came on, took off his jacket, and with that the night began. Then, he did the same when he left, putting on his jacket to the sound of a divided room singing different halves of vocal flourishes on ‘Feels Like Home’, thanking the audience a final time and leaving the stage – he could definitely split a room. He could even divide it into four parts, depending on the song and the kazoos he had to play with.
Newton’s interaction with the crowd was entertaining and humbling throughout, but he’d probably agree that the audience interaction was pretty spot on as well. He got us to sing back-up (no help was needed with the words, though, especially when the lyric-perfect crowd sang ‘Dream Catch Me’), clap, dance, play the kazoo, and finally, all jump in unison to an exhilarating rendition of ‘Write It on Your Skin’. Newton kept the crowd laughing, from exclamations like “I really like hitting things with sticks” to his on-point impression of Christopher Walken, who he hoped would introduce him on stage someday. His enthusiasm kept everyone on a high, feeding off his love of performing and his love for the audience stood in front of him, many of whom had been there with him since the beginning.
The lights were mesmerising, whether we’re talking multicoloured solid beams of light shining down or beautifully filtered light, adding texture to the sparse stage around Newton as he sung. It would punctuate the songs that needed to be punctuated and linger on the others, giving Newton a glow that would reflect the mood of the song. And don’t even get me started on his light-up percussion stick.
This is all without talking about the music itself. The Mozart of the acoustic guitar, you can tell Newton has put in more than his 10,000 hours. Sometimes he’d take it easy and just play guitar and do percussion, but mostly he’d be juggling foot pedals and sticks too. Mid-song, you’d forget that he was playing and beating everything that you were hearing, and you’d be impressed all over again. Whether he was playing a mash-up of ‘I’ll Be There’, Rusted Root’s ‘Send Me on My Way’ and ‘No Diggity’, attempting to play an impromptu ‘Sponge Bob Square Pants’ on an acoustic bass or juggling four parts to a song like ‘Pick Up Your Broken Heart’, he had everyone’s attention. Even when he would go slightly wrong you’d love him for it – it’s those imperfections that make a gig. He gave up playing his cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Million Reasons’, but before he did, he managed to play his favourite twiddly bits of the song and then cheekily asked for ours.
From ‘Teardrop’ to ‘Finger Tips’, he picked songs that spanned his preceding six albums, making this tour a treat for new and old fans alike. He did play a lot of his sadder songs, but the happier stuff he did play would always get us right back in the mood.
The Very Best of Newton Faulkner… So Far is out now via Battenberg Records. Buy tickets to his upcoming gigs here, including dates in London, Leeds and Glasgow. Watch the music video for ‘Don’t Leave Me Waiting’ below.