Newton Faulkner @ The Albert Hall
“In a cruel world where it is so easy for a soul such as his to write songs about pain, heartbreak and punishing politics, Newton Faulkner calls for you to be good to your fellow human beings and looks on the bright side of life. It’s wonderful”
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Charlotte Wellings
A lone figure under a beaming spotlight, Newton Faulkner is reflected in the tall, stained glass windows that stretch out across the gorgeous converted Wesleyan chapel. He thumps and slaps his guitar while his hands shimmy across the fretboard, the percussive tones of his hollow acoustic guitar reverberating out into a room fizzing with admiration; sweet, gentle music weaving in and around them as they do.
At 31, the Surrey born singer songwriter is entering his 10th year as a recording artist, and before a room decorated with glittering, awe-struck eyes and curled smiles, he performs his songs with an oozing charisma and love.
Centred around three distinctive but complimentive, honey-dripped voices, Norway’s I See Rivers had provided a beautiful supporting set. Comprising of a trio of women, an acoustic and an electric guitar – the latter often-times caressed with a violin bow with a ethereal, sweeping tone – keyboards and a solitary tom, no one instrument dominates their sound. Instead, they provide colours which paint a greater canvas.
What was the defining element of their set for me however, was not their music. As seductively soul soothing as it was, it was the way the members interacted with one another that struck the biggest c(h)ord within me. Simply, it was the way they looked at one another - the shared glances and smiles, Lill Scheie dancing and swaying to their emotive compositions - and their unadulterated joy. Here is a band simply delighted to be on stage together and, you feel, that feeling was reciprocated out into a growing crowd.
Ten years into his career, Newton Faulkner is still pushing himself as an artist and so for the first time in the UK he is accompanied on stage. After the opening duo of the well known, well loved To The Light and I Need Something, his brother, Toby, joins him on bass alongside a drummer who makes his set more danceable than ever before.
This change in dynamics isn't abused however, it is nurtured and cherished, with much of the set still performed solely by Faulkner, his voice and a guitar. But as a three piece, they are a well crafted unit, re-imagining some older tracks as well as giving the layered tracks of his latest album, Human Love, the needed instrumentation. This includes the happy-go-lucky Brick By Brick, the hedonistic boogie of Up Up and Away and a revitalised cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop.
Throughout, he makes a point of asking the audience “are you cool?” – his true care for his fans clear to see. As a result it conjures a sense of community, warming what would otherwise be a chilly room with positive emotions.
It is that sense of positivity that defines Faulkner’s cheery music. In a cruel world where it is so easy for a soul such as his to write songs about pain, heartbreak and punishing politics, he calls for you to be good to your fellow human beings (People Should Smile More) and looks on the bright side of life (Clouds). It’s wonderful.
His set flies by, his most adored work interspersed throughout a set littered with deeper but equally as talented cuts. He ends with a medley which takes in Gone In The Morning and Green Day’s Basket Case – he’ll be joining the American Idiot stage show when this tour is over – and it provides a fluttering final flourish to a memorable evening.