Around 10 years ago I was sitting at home with my guitar trying to figure out how to strum along to… well, pretty much anything.
I caught a TV advert, it was in black and white and some dreadlocked chap was playing a guitar like a piano and singing a Massive Attack cover. Just when I thought strumming was the pinnacle of guitar playing Newton Faulkner came into my life and opened my eyes to a whole new way of approaching song writing. 10 years later I finally got the opportunity to watch Newton live and let’s just get right into this; It. Was. Stunning.
Newton starts the show with ‘Into the Light’, the first song from his debut album Hand Built by Robots which is just the perfect amount of showy guitar playing, song structure and melody to give you an idea of what to expect for the rest of the evening. This is the thing about Newton Faulkner, I don’t think it matters which genre of music you might be into. If you have an appreciation of musicianship, vocal ability, “tricks” such as creating loops or using pedals to mimic piano parts, then this man does it all, and I mean he does it all at the same time!
There’s something engaging about watching Newton perform. He appears to be having a great time, his interactions with the audience are welcomed and when he steps away from the guitar to sit at a piano humbly suggesting “he’s not that good at it”, he plays the beautiful ‘The Good Fight’ followed by a touching story about writing a song for his son when being away on tour. ‘Carry You’ from his latest album Hit The Ground Running is a very different arrangement to what you’ll hear live and I loved it (I had something in my eye for the duration).
It’s worth mentioning that Newton is a solo performer and uses his feet for percussion on a number of songs. But what about harmonies and backing vocals you say? Well there was a sold-out attendance of 700 people to supply those. When Newton started to play ‘Far to Fall’ he has half the crowd sing one part, the other half another and because the singing gig goers were doing such a good job Newton joins them with vocal harmonies! I have never heard an audience sing as loudly and passionately as I did on this night and that’s testament to just how encapsulating a performer Newton Faulkner is.
With no real encore to speak of Newton asks what the fans would like to hear. In amongst the rabble he picks out a few songs and decides on the spot to create a medley before finishing his set on a figurative and literal high by singing the upbeat ‘Write It on Your Skin’. He announces the only thing he’s not had tonight is jumping and his admirers are more than happy to accommodate with not a single person standing still. I’ve been a the heaviest of heavy metal gigs with less energy on show.
In summary, if you want to be entertained, touched, impressed, sometimes confused about how all of this is coming from one man and one guitar then Newton Faulkner is your man. In a time where solo acts are able to headline major festivals the man who quite possibly paved the way for these acts should be entitled to his slice of the pie.
Newton Faulkner. I salute you.
Photos: Iain Mitchell Photography