Newton Faulkner – Live Review – Old Woollen, Leeds

Newton Faulkner – Live Review – Old Woollen, Leeds (1)

By Victoria Holdsworth, May 2024

After an abrupt interruption to his last touring plans due to the pandemic, the flame-haired minstrel Newton Faulkner is back on stage for his “Feels Like Home 2” tour, continuing to do what he does best, which is to put on a superb show from the first to the last note.

When you go to see Newton play live, you’re not just a member of the audience; you become part of his orchestra, his backing vocals, and his soundboard. He really does make you work, in the nicest possible sense. TMost audience members participate and it really does lift the atmosphere of the whole gig, usually happening at a minute’s notice from the man conducting it all from his stool on the stage.

After a huge welcome, Newton kicks off his set with the familiar drumbeat from his magic tricks board for ‘Been Here Before’ from Hit The Ground Running, released back in 2017. Faulkner’s voice weaves effortlessly amongst the tricky and rapid tempo changes.

With everybody all warmed up, the sell-out crowd is instructed that they will be split into three-part harmonies and certain levels at points in the next song, which he will lead us all into what he calls, “Our interpretation of this song! Don’t mess it up [laughs] and I’ll tell you when to come in!”

That being imparted, the vocally brilliant ‘Never Alone’ is stunning to listen to live, up close and personal. The tones and ranges in Newton Faulkner’s voice never fail to amaze me, coupled with the feelings etched on his face when he sings, going through every possible emotion, but always enjoying every moment.

‘Take What You Want’ is a beautiful piece of music, the lyrics raw and honest, whilst a blues-slicked string rhythm drives on in the background.

Newton Faulkner – Live Review – Old Woollen, Leeds (2)“Delicately dark”

A real crowd-pleaser, ‘I Need Something’ – the first single released from his debut album Hand Built By Robots back in 2007 – still sounds fresh, poignant, and at 17 years old, it has not aged a bit.

With such an extensive back catalogue now, Newton Faulkner has a multitude of cracking tunes to chop and change between, and ‘Clouds’ from Write It On Your Skin is one of the more recent gems, which you can tell by the smile on his face, he loves performing. It is catchy and ethereal-sounding, drifting over you and making you feel uplifted/ But it’s his cover version of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ that just stuns everyone into complete silence as they soak in every single note and sound coming from the stage. It is executed perfectly.

Another standout is ‘People Should Smile More’. The first time he has played it on this tour, with its barbing lyrics set within a happy, plucky tune, it catches you off guard.

‘Full Fat & UFO’, also from Handbuilt By Robots, are quirky as hell – but this is a performer who does the best Spongebob Squarepants cover I have ever seen.

After the interval, ‘Pulling Teeth’ is a rhythmical delight, and ‘Orange Skies’ from the 2013 album Studio Zoo requires more audience participation. The humming and oohing really sees the crowd let their hair down (not that there’s much room to do so).

Newton asks his captive gathering if they have any requests, and a good shout comes across the sea of heads as he launches into ‘Ageing Superhero’, another delicately dark tune.

There is a little bit of banter between songs, but he is really packing them in tonight and one of the very best is ‘Finger Tips’ with its sultry strumming and evocative beat, all spliced with angelic lofty vocals. It is spine chilling, with a choral beauty in its starkness.

While Newton adjusts his guitar for the next song, he tells the crowd: “My family have a saying: Always play them the song that bought you your first house,” as breaks out into the inevitable ‘Dream Catch Me’, which is met with a raucous cheer, and impromptu singalong, without any encouragement needed. The noise is deafening, the passion evident.

The plucky ‘Smoked Ice Cream’ and anthemic ‘Gone In The Morning’, alongside the majestic ‘Write It On Your Skin’ close the set.

Many years may have passed for both Newton and his core audience, but the singer’s sheer class is permanent. It is performances and songs that shape gigs, and then magic happens when there is a connection between artist and audience – and tonight’s show had it all in abundance.

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