With support from Lisa Mitchell
Review by Emma Fitzgibbon
Newton Faulkner is probably as well known and loved for his comedy covers (proved tonight by the repeated shouts of ‘SpongeBob’ from the crowd) as he is for his own material. Having never seen him live before I had wondered whether his humour would become part of the set – and the answer was yes, by the bucket load. Not quite the same vein as musical comedians such as Bill Bailey or Tim Minchin but it’s not hard to imagine him joining them one day.
As someone not too familiar with the new album, my first concern was that I’d get bored of material I couldn’t sing along to. But the set list was perfect – at no point did I wish he’d hurry up and play something older – and my short attention span was catered for with bizarre anecdotes and a short version of Blackstreet’s ‘I Like The Way You Work’ breaking up the time between.
The O2 is one of those perfectly sized venues – small enough to have a sense of intimacy with the artist, but big enough to have an atmosphere. Generally used as a club it has an interesting layout of different levels, bar and seating levels.
Opening tonight’s show was Lisa Mitchell, an Australian musician probably best known for ‘Neopolitan Dreams’ from the 2008 EP ‘Welcome To The Afternoon’ which featured on a recent 3 Mobile advert. She opened her set with this song and immediately had the noisy audience transfixed. Each song as beautiful as the next coupled with an adorable quality as she played an acoustic guitar that looked far too big for her, all my university woes were banished in moments. She should also be commended for her choice to perform Dire Straits’ ‘Romeo And Juliet’ from which she created a simple yet truly heartwarming cover.
While Lisa Mitchell’s set was sweet and simple affair, Newton Faulkner’s was something of a theatrical experience. I have to praise all those involved in the lighting for creating something stunning yet not overpowering – those white globes were genius. The stage included two large screens for practical as well as decorative purposes. One showed live video of his feet during some songs where he used pedals for different effects. It meant that we were able to see just how much of the music he creates himself on stage which is something I love about his music. He doesn’t have a band which I think is much to his credit and he was very honest about how the music was created – if there was anything that he physically couldn’t play on stage at the same time as everything else then a visual link was created so you could at least see him playing it. And for the one song that used a backing track he produced a cassette player, which he announced proudly that he was trying to ‘bring back for the kids’. Good luck Newton.
I think it’s fair to say that a lot of musicians don’t involve their audiences to a great extent at shows. And if they do, they probably don’t approach it like an acting class, telling everyone their motivation for the situation – for ‘Gone In The Morning’ we were told we were rabid pirates, 50 feet from the shore of a island filled with our arch enemies the cannibals. And somehow, that made us sing louder. I guess rabid pirates have big lungs.
It’s also fair to say that most artists couldn’t get away with having a dancing alien on stage. But I guess when you’re actually talented and don’t take yourself so seriously so seriously that people don’t realise when you’re joking, you can get away with pretty much anything you want. Because everyone’s behind you on it. And as I left the venue there was a buzz in the air of ‘Did he really just do that? That was nuts!!! I loved it!’. Newton Faulkner? The Feel Good Factor!