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Gig Review: Newton Faulkner at O2 Academy Oxford
“Author: Georgina Quach
Gig: Newton Faulkner
Venue: O2 Academy Oxford
Date: 13th April 2016”
“Dance competitions, audience sing-alongs, harmless sophisticated banter and all round positive vibes are just some of the reasons why Newton Faulkner’s gigs are fun, uplifting and sure to put a smile on your face.
I can’t imagine a better way to spend a spring evening than simply being mesmerized by the incredible talents of dread-lock sporting acoustic folk-pop extraordinaire, Newton Faulkner. A quick glance at the excited queue soaking up the last rays of sunshine outside O2 Academy Oxford and I notice a pretty diverse turn out—it is fair to say that this Surrey-born singer-songwriter appeals to fans of all ages. It’s impossible not to warm to the laid-back and refreshingly humble Faulkner.
The first support act Ben Roberts initiated the evening’s fine mix of singer-songwriter styles with a mellow acoustic set that soon led the crowd into a relaxed and comfortable environment. His gentle silky voice touched the hearts of the audience and undoubtedly there is always something deeply personal about a solo artist, accompanied only by a guitar, pouring his innermost thoughts into his lyrics.
Norwegian band ‘I See Rivers’ graced the stage next with their beautifully written atmospheric music and cheery sweet personalities (they also gave us major hair envy). After chatting to the crowd about the natural beauty of their Norwegian hometowns, we also got to hear the passion they had for the natural world in a few incredible tracks they played—one entitled ‘Ocean’ was my favourite. The three voices seamlessly fused together to create clever and surprising vocal arrangements, delicate yet incredibly powerful.
When he appeared on set, Newton was his usual easy-going self. The crowd happily shimmied closer and before long it got nice and cosy. One thing is for sure, at a Newton Faulkner gig, the audience are not merely passive spectators, but are fully engaged in singing roles and of course the odd banter with the hilarious man himself. Faulkner didn’t just play songs to us; he allowed the powerful chorus of the gig audience to chime in on his call and be a part of the performance themselves. The fact that he managed to split the crowd into three, all getting them to sing in time with each other, was testimony to his many talents and magical presence.
There was lots of audience interaction and needless to say, Faulkner really does appreciate his fans supporting him and the work he does. Newton’s bubbly and humorous nature gave the gig real entertainment value and topped up the already relaxed atmosphere of the packed room. He started with three tracks off his latest album ‘Human Love’: ‘Break’, ‘A step in the right direction’ and ‘Human Love’. Drummer Toby Couling and Newton’s brother Toby joined him onstage, enhancing Newton’s unique and spectacular percussive style of playing guitar. Being a one-man band until fairly recently, astonishingly, all that Newton really needed was a guitar, a loop pedal and a whole lot of passion to create the most beautiful harmonies. He soon brought out one of his custom-built guitars, which had five triggers for making different percussion sounds. His informal and innovative attitude towards music and heartfelt songs made the crowd roar with laughter whilst appreciating his mastery of musicianship.
In between his crowd-pleasing classics ‘Brick-by-brick’, ‘People Should Smile More’ and ‘Dream Catch Me’, Newton also treated us to a cover of Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’, involving an instrument made of taped-together beer bottles. We all chimed in cheerfully as he sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to one lucky fan. By ‘Passing Planes’ and ‘Up Up and Away’, most of the crowd were dancing away, fired up by the words ‘shake your little tail feather’ from the shimmering track ‘Sugar in the Snow’. ‘Don’t drop the bass!’ shouted a comedy genius, as Newton got to showcase his equally incredible abilities on the bass guitar. The puns, jokes and cheeky grins made the gig seem more intimate and the crowd were more than ready to take part when he got us to jump. The gig’s finales were the infectious tunes ‘Gone in the Morning’ and ‘Write It On Your Skin’.
No longer sporting his long trademark red dreadlocks, it seems as if the barefoot artist is embarking on a new chapter in an already-stellar career, but the energy and high-spirits of his live performances have not changed. There is a lot of love out there for this quirky singer-songwriter. Yes, there are horrible things happening in the world but when you hear live music like this, you are reminded of the good things to be happy about and in the words of Faulkner, ‘people should smile more’.”
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