Gig Review: Newton Faulkner, Limelight (Monday 8th April)

Contributed by Mark Loughrey

The atmosphere of this gig was a rather relaxed one, with opening singer-songwriter James Gillespie doing a commendable job in placating the near-capacity audience.  His personable nature helped establish a relaxed, reciprocating rapport between the performer and audience immediately, setting the tone for the evening. After finishing his set, Gillespie encouraged the audience to make ecstatic applause behind him whilst taking a video so that he could ‘see which city has the loudest audience’, part of an ongoing investigation that the singer-songwriter had personally taken it upon himself to conduct over the course of the tour. It’s increasingly crucial for an artist in the modern music industry to have a strong social media presence, but this, unfortunately, gave the impression of being a cleverly veiled marketing campaign that only served to remove some of the sincerity of Gillepsie’s previous performance.

The next act on the bill were the three-piece I See Rivers who captivated the audience with their ethereal, wraithlike harmonies and propensity for melodic hooks.  Their original material featured vocal flourishes reminiscent of First Aid Kit and a light sprinkling of electro-pop redolent of another Liverpool based trio, Stealing Sheep.  Their set was wonderfully well received and showed a lot of promise.

Afterwards the crowd grew hushed in anticipation for the main event, who came on stage to an incredibly enthusiastic applause accompanied by a supporting two-piece ensemble.

Having just released his fifth album Human Love in November of last year, Newton Faulkner is not just a singer-songwriter with an extensive body of work to drawn upon, but an individual seemingly unafraid to pursue new timbres and colours within his music and, if that was not enough, an entertainer with extraordinary presence, technicality and control. Stylistically, this newer material stands a world apart from earlier works, particularly Hand Built By Robots, and it was particular interesting to witness how Faulkner subtly incorporated his two supporting musicians during some songs in order to achieve a full-band sound, suitable for a much larger venue.   

The set-list itself was rather holistic, with Faulkner managing to include many established fan-favourites such as Dream Catch Me and Write It On Your Skin, all of which elicited an impassioned response. Newer source material also received optimistically encouraging reactions from revellers as well.

Despite what this newer material appeared to lack in terms of musical inventiveness (heavily incorporating sensibilities reminiscent to that of 80s pop-rock), one has to compliment the willingness of Faulkner to embrace eclecticism in experimentation at this stage in his career.  In spite of these criticisms, the set itself was unfaltering entertainment.

Faulkner’s light-hearted approach to audience interaction and amiable personality helped contribute to the relaxed atmosphere among concert goers and encouraged their participation. Throughout the course of the night, he assumed the role of a choirmaster on several songs, assigning each section of the audience their own respective vocal harmonies to sing, creating genuinely lovely sentiments of unity between total strangers.

After leaving the stage with a medley of Sugar in The Snow, a cover of Green Day’s Basket Case, Gone in the Morning and Write It On Your Skin, Faulkner returned with a beaming, luminescent grin to bring the night to a close with an impressive one-man rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, illustrating for the final time his extraordinary levels of musicality.

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