Newton Faulkner live, 12/2/2018; A Fangirl's Review.

Let's get this little thing out of the way, first: everyone who reads this nonsense regularly should know by now that I have a soft spot for singer-songwriters with fancy guitar skillz and beautiful principles. Right? And it's not a 'guilty pleasure' kind of soft spot, it's a real and serious love. Okay, cool. 

And one of my favourite artists within this lovely genre, is Newton Faulkner. 
Back in late 2013, I was a bit of a state. My mind and morals were all over the place, and many of my relationships were crumbling away at an alarming speed – there were few things that kept me focused and motivated...and sane. One of those things was music. 
2013 was the year certain lovely songwriters were on full blast pretty much constantly. I’d let their voices fill up my bedroom every morning as I got out of bed and got ready for what was no doubt a very stressful day ahead; I plugged them into my ears as I walked to campus or into town, and on the few occasions I made it home, I’d play their albums over and over as I drove down country lanes – not going anywhere in particular, just happily driving, and singing.

In recent years, I have seen Newton Faulkner live four times. (Okay fine, it’s actually nine if you count the times I saw the absolutely insane American Idiot musical in London, summer 2016. £15 a ticket, the sexiest cast I’ve ever seen and some of my favourite teenage tunes, judge away, b*tch.) (Oh yeah, I wrote about that musical HERE)

I have witnessed Mr Faulkner rock the roof off Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavillion (and wrote about it HERE), fill up a very sweaty club in Berlin, and most recently (the other night, in fact) he lit up the Oxford O2 Academy. 

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But the first time I saw him was in Portsmouth, with three best friends, in 2013. And I can honestly say, hearing his voice live – and then getting a very, ermm, hairy hug from him afterwards – helped pull me out of the wretched funk I couldn’t seem to escape, back then. So cheers for that, mate. I will always be very grateful. *plugs the gush*

Seeing Newton Faulkner at the O2 Academy Oxford, 12th February 2018, was a massive, magical – and much-awaited – treat of an experience. He opened the gig by approaching the mic (cue screams from an audience of all ages) and saying ‘Hello, I’m Newton Faulkner.’ (more screaming, whooping and clapping) ‘...sorry I’m late.’

Ah yes, because lovely NF was forced to postpone a few gigs he'd had booked in December last year. I was not-very-secretly overjoyed to see this announced on his socials, because while I was so sorry he wasn’t 100%, it meant I would have the chance to see him live in the UK when I got home from my 9 weeks pottering around Australia. WIN?!

Most of the crowd’s (and my) favourites were played: ‘I Need Something’, ‘Dream Catch Me’, ‘Fingertips’...Then some unexpected ones made their way in, too – after the more brazen audience members yelled the titles at him – ‘People Should Smile More’ (that one came with a brilliant tale of an elderly lady airport attack), ‘Full Fat’, ‘UFO’. We were also treated to cute and quieter ones, such as ‘There is Still Time’, ‘Passing Planes’ and the brilliant new ting, ‘Hit the Ground Running’. 
And of course, the end of the gig could only come after we’d all jumped along to ‘Write It On Your Skin’.

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I often am amazed at gigs when the artist can just stop singing for a moment, step back from the mic, and have their audience, their fans, sing their missing words right back to them without missing a beat. Newton’s face when that happens at any of his gigs is a picture of pure and hardcore happiness. Having said that, he was grinning the whole way through the gig the other night – and made himself laugh quite a bit, too. My favourite unexpected gag would have to be when he explained the thesis behind popular music, and how he effectively writes songs that say something like: “I’m depressed, and oh so deep, won’t you...sleep...with me?” And he then went on to theorise about communicating that to aliens if/when they land on Earth – ‘they’d put a fish in their ears, translate what I was singing, run away and then bring back even more!’

I seem to have gone off on a tangent there (much like my favourite artists often do, tbf) – what I was getting to was the importance of audience participation at gigs. I’ve been to many performances, big and small, when the artist didn’t quite engage with or use the audience as much as they could have, and thus lost a lot of their magic. 

Newton’s audience participation is legendary. He’ll split the crowd down the middle - or into thirds - several times in one night, encouraging them (us) to sing this bit or that lyric, clap here; to make sounds, work together and accompany him. It’s bloody lovely. And Newton’s reactions to this participation, when it all comes together, are equally excellent – his excitement is infectious and you can tell he really values it, and doesn’t take it for granted. 

My adoration and admiration for this ginger nut is as enormous now as it was when I first heard 'Dream Catch Me' one day on the radio after school, and the first time jumped and clapped along to his gorgeous tunes (and cried at one, ‘At the Seams’, oh boy) in 2013. In fact it’s so enormous that I am always willing to travel far from home, to places I've never been, just to see and hear him yet again. So ta very much, Newton. See you again soon, I’m sure. 


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