Newton Faulkner: The Barbican, York, 12/10/12
What was the first impression of the night? That the massive, £5 hotdog and pint of beer combo would be the highlight. Taking the ‘ginger yeti’ Newton Faulkner an hour to appear, things looked a little worrying as the support acts seem to do nothing but drive the audience over to the bar. Thankfully, when he stepped up, the whole atmosphere changed.
Last Friday night, this ‘solo artiste’ filled the Barbican with a mixture of sounds raging from folk, funk and… Kermit the Frog. It was anything but normal. Faulkner played barefoot, littered his performance with stories and jokes, and even served tea from the depths of a wooden, glowing, globe cabinet. The humility in his abnormality relaxed the audience, giving the night a more personal feel; capturing and holding everyone’s attention.
Faulkner played a mix of music between his latest album, Write It On Your Skin, and his debut double platinum selling album Hand Built By Robots, which was to be expected. Opening the night was his single ‘Pulling Teeth’, which was a risk, but following up with better known hits such as the well-known ‘People Should Smile More’ made it a success.
Faulkner even played his ‘worst song ever’, titled ‘He used to be a professional dog food taster’, performed in the voices of David Bowie and Kermit the Frog. Equally, his controversial covers were a victory. The Barbican was treated to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’, Maroon 5′s ‘Payphone’ and even Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ ended the night on a high.
Other than great lyrics and melodies, his technical ability made the night. No loops were used, just four limbs: A kick drum by his left foot and a series of electronic sounds to hand. The strumming pattern of Faulkner’s fingers should have also been broken down as he listed his instruments. Each one seemed to take on a unique role in stroking and tapping the guitar’s body. It was refreshingly frank and comical. The crowd went mad. There is no denying Faulkner’s skill set.
The audience turnout was also impressive. It ranged from adolescent schoolgirls to middle aged men. Never the less, everyone sang along to tracks like ‘UFO’, ‘I need something’, ‘Brick by Brick’, and ‘Pick up your broken heart’, even participating in some group harmonies directed by Faulkner. By the end, the crowd was jumping along to the chorus of ‘Write it on your skin’, something that he even admitted few ‘solo artistes’ can achieve.
After a rocky start, the acoustic guitar virtuoso surpassed my expectations. Exquisitely eccentric and yet wonderfully normal, the performance could not have reflected Faulkner better. Faulkner is the master of mixing his rugged character with the refined nature of his skill, and managing to even blend in a professionalism and honesty. Like more of a puppet master than musician, Faulkner is definitely an artist that needs to be seen live at least once in one’s life.