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Live Review: Newton Faulkner – 23rd November 2017 – ULU Student Central, London, UK

4 min read
Photo: Dawbell

Six albums into a career that has spanned a successful decade, and with Hit the Ground Running, his latest record and first independent release of his career after splitting from his home within a major label, being released within the past couple of months, singer-songwriter and guitar maestro Newton Faulkner is busy promoting said new record to fans around the country as part of his latest tour.

Usually capable to filling out theatre spaces, Faulkner opted for a double dose at the ULU Student Central in the capital, giving London fans two chances to catch the star on his latest trek.

Opening the show with Into The Light, the first track off his 2007 debut album, Hand Built By Robots, Faulkner showed off his impressive guitar playing style to a sold out crowd at the ULU while revealing his skilled vocals over a track that boasts quickly delivered lyrics and a wailing closing that filled the venue and got the crowd quickly in the mood and ready to belt back to the ginger guitar hero on stage.

The track was then followed by Smoked Ice Cream, the first single from Faulkner’s latest Hit The Ground Running release. With its simple instrumentation, it was Faulkner’s voice that was on full display here as he swayed from gentle verse to bellowing chorus and invited fans to sing along to the catchy pop ditty.

Early songs including I Need Something and his famous cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop were dished up early within the set while Clouds – one of the stars more commercially drenched singles – was met with a roaring approval from the crowd who Faulkner encouraged to take part in for a sing-off; sectioning the audience into three parts and having each deliver a different backing to the infectious hit.

While there were plenty of songs to get the crowd worked up, there were also a few that seemed to fall on deaf ears with a crowd that was predominantly of a college student age and who seemed easily distracted and unmindful of the scene being set by some of the numbers offered up by Faulkner.

During inclusions like the breathy There Is Still Time and the personal Carry You which was an ode to his son and the demands of travelling away from family, there were large pockets of “fans” that were unable to remain quiet and instead talked through much of the performance, taking away from what would be some touching moments within the show. The venue was also a negative element of last night performance and the lack of good acoustics for some of the more down-tempo and subtle set inclusions left us struggling to hear sections of songs like There Is Still Time and even Faulkner’s usually high quality delivery of Teardrop which was a real shame.

Strapping on an electric guitar and wielding some gritty riffs – a far cry from his usual acoustic string showmanship – Faulkner’s offering of Finger Tips fell slightly flat; the guitar-work sounding more like an inexperienced learner than that of a seasoned master of the strings. The song also felt messy in its delivery – despite Faulkner’s voice still ringing true to his effortless high standard.

A couple of piano ballads rang through the venue with passion and conviction; a pair of rare moments where you could hear a pin drop as fans hung on every whispered word from the dreaded songsmith who traded in his signature acoustics for a tinkle on the ivory keys. Showing off his multi-instrumental talents, Faulkner opted for a piano to deliver the heartbreaking and poignant The Good Fight while a duet of So Long with singer Tessa Rose Jackson found Faulkner sitting to the side of the stage with his singing partner for a quiet yet applaudable performance of Hit The Ground Running’s token collaboration.

As new songs flowed thick and heavy, it was the singers performance of signature hit Dream Catch Me with its hook-heavy chorus and recent new album single Hit The Ground Running which came equipped with some of the highest notes of the night, that stole the show and injected a mainstream vein into a night that was overflowing with the singers new numbers.

The performance was a bit of a mixed bag compared to previous shows that we have seen Faulkner offer us in the past. While the hits popped up at just the right moments within the set, the crowd – made up in large part of college students clutching pints – brought the overall tone of the night to a slightly juvenile level and the acoustics of the performance space, depending on where you were situated, didn’t do much justice to a large section of the set. Hopefully the next tour will see Faulkner return to the usual concert venue stomping grounds that the ginger-dreaded hit-maker is far more suited.