I first saw Newton Faulkner when he supported James Morrison in 2007 at the Brighton Dome.
Back then he was halfway through his highly entertaining set promoting the ‘UFO’ EP when someone shouted “What’s your name again?” Newton Faulkner has that effect on audiences, the uninitiated are quickly entranced by his world class guitar playing, his soulful voice and his easy comfort with the audience. This is something that has stood him in good stead throughout his five-album career. Newton Faulkner is one of the best live acts around. These days he sells out venues and, trust me, everyone there is fully aware of his name.
On Sunday night he sold out the O2 Kentish Town Forum and brought his Human Love Tour to London after playing France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy over the last two months. This was his only London date and the place was buzzing from the start as Newton opened with two classics from, ‘Hand Built By Robots’, his double platinum debut album of 2007. ‘To The Light’, and, ‘I Need Something’, are both tracks which perfectly illustrate his percussive style as he plucks notes from the fret board and neck of the guitar whilst simultaneously banging the body creating a now trade mark sound. He then moved seamlessly into a new track, ‘Step in the Right Direction’, as he was joined on stage by his brother Toby, playing mandolin, bass, and joining in on vocals. Also on stage was his drummer, also Toby but Toby Couling, who helped with vocals too. Both men brought huge enthusiasm to the stage throughout the evening which perfectly complemented Newton’s laid back style.
Newton and the Tobys then spent the next 90 minutes or so enthralling the crowd with a wonderful mix of music and chatter. I am constantly baffled that Newton doesn’t have chart hit after chart hit but with the obvious enthusiasm of the entire crowd and five top ten albums to his name I’m sure this is not a worry for him. In fact, like a lot of last night’s fans I spoke with, it’s nice to keep Newton as our very own secret. Once you have seen him live, he is like an addiction that needs constant feeding and it’s never easy getting tickets to see him. Last night was my eighth time having seen him in support and headline ever since that first time in February 2007 and it just made me keen to see him play again as soon as possible. If you aren’t lucky enough to have tickets for his last few gigs over the coming week you have a couple of alternatives. He will be taking to the stage in the touring production of the Green Day musical, ‘American Idiot’, from May, or if you don’t want to leave the house and you are quick you can still catch, ‘The Quay Sessions’, on BBC iPlayer which will give you a taste of just how talented and charming this man is.
It’s almost impossible to pick out the humorous highlights of Sunday’s gig: anyone used to seeing him would expect the incredible musicianship to be combined with a warm disarming humour, but one of them was Newton’s magical guitar, a guitar computer linked to various sounds which Newton then wielded with his usual expertise to much delight as he played ‘Shadow Boxing’. Someone in the crowd likened him to Gandalf and Newton responded “Yes, Gandalf the Ginger”, to the delight of the crowd. It was funny and brilliant but then both of those words perfectly sum this artist up. There is truly something of the wizard about him.
There was much to take away from the evening for every one of the happy fans that streamed into the night just before eleven o’clock. Some chatted about the surprise cover of Justin Bieber’s, ‘Sorry’, complete with pan pipes, some loved the old classics including “Teardrop” and the magnificent “Dream Catch Me”, some loved the “no money spared” costume change when Newton threw on a poncho and some loved the grungy version of, ‘People Should Smile More’. But, one thing that everyone loved was the finale when Newton launched into a medley of songs covering his last five albums which started with Green Day’s, ‘Basket Case’, a nod to his forthcoming musical tour or to his beginnings with a Green Day cover band, and then moved effortlessly through many songs that the fans had been calling for. A wonderful finale joined on stage by his support act I See Rivers. The Norwegian trio, Eline, Goril, and Lill, bounced and jumped along with everyone in the crowd and then suddenly, sadly this wonderful night was over and Newton and the Tobys were taking a bow. No encore, there was no need, and no sign of Sponge Bob Squarepants but a happy capacity crowd already dreaming of the next time they would see their hero.