Review and Photography by Zoe Shannon

I arrive for early doors just before 6.30 and already the queue is starting to snake its way down Digbeth High Street. It starts to corner Floodgate and fans are still arriving by the time I get inside about 10 past 7. It’ s a busy Friday night with two gigs sharing the venue, yet I can tell this queue only has eyes and ears for one man. As I enter the main room, I’m met by the familiar arch of the stage and on it, bathed in blue and green lights, are shrouded instruments in front of some sort of scaffolding and a lamp post. The audience inside is already buzzing and growing in numbers and volume.

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First on stage is Charlotte. Two figures emerge from the dark; Joe with his guitar slightly to the right and Charlotte in the middle, takes the mic. She’s short and very young looking, giving off scruffy teen vibes in her comfy looking tartan trousers and oversized Marvel tshirt, but when she opens her mouth a mature, soulful voice takes me by surprise. Simplicity is key in this act; the lights barely change and movement is minimal but this voice, only accompanied by jolly tones of Joe’s acoustic, fills the room. For song 3, Just Me, she seats herself at a keyboard which almost covers her from view, allowing her meaningful voice to float throughout. She controls her tones and range with ease, and I’m lost in it.

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She explains to the audience just how much this show means to her; her last performance at the same venue was to 10 people, a far cry from the packed room currently listening intently to every word. Leona Lewis seems to come to mind.

Continuing her set, her song Nervous, the current single, is followed by a cover of Childish Gambino’s Redbone and one more before being met with a warmest of applauses from, no doubt, a legion of new fans.

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This tour is promoting Newton’s latest album ‘The Best of… So Far’, the review for which can be found here.

So it’s clear what we’re in for and boy, does he deliver. When Newton Faulkner appears for his set, the audience are immediately enamoured. He clamours onto a platform underneath the scaffold and takes a seat, surrounded by his now uncovered tools and instruments. I notice no shoes and odd socks, his trademark dreads now knotted above his head and the biggest smile on his face.

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He wastes no time in getting started with If This Is It and is only halfway through when the audience starts clapping along while a voice shoots through the crowd, “Good start” is met with more grins from the man on stage.

Just after his second song, he’s ready for a chat. With (what I presume to be) a cup of tea in one hand and his guitar in his lap, he tells us that he had an idea for the show. He’s done two things which could be awful; 1. invited a bunch of people to a room with a bar and 2. given them all Kazoos. After a quick Kazoo lesson, we’re treated to a Kazoo solo and a joyful Newton who’s found a new noise to make on it. He then leads the Kazoo chorus through Bricks and Clouds before getting to his feet and swapping guitars to continue the set.

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The show continues is this pattern. He stands for a few, sits for a few but it’s always just him on stage, single handedly captivating and encouraging his crowd. Underneath a spotlight to the right of the stage it’s full acoustic. When he returns to the seat on the platform, he performs his guitar knocking, finger tapping rhythms whilst simultaneously adding percussion with a drumpad on one side and a kick pedal to the other. It’s an impressive display of his unique musical style that enthralls the crowd.

Almost every single audience member erupts with every familiar song, knowing every word as he launches into Teardrop and I Need Something or joining in with the harmonies through the majesty of the Kazoo between heckles of affection and laughs at every joke and story.

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All through the set, Newton is laughing, smiling and engaging with them. I’ve never seen so much joy emanating from a performer, especially one who is alone on stage. After another sing a long through Dream Catch Me, things get even more light hearted when a covers medley ends with the Spongebob Squarepants theme tune and a convincing sailor accent. Everyone around me is dancing, the room is full of love and a Friday Feeling.

To round it up, Newton finishes with Write It On Your Skin. Here he actively encourages jumping and more kazoo, and the audience is keen to please. As the lights flash to the beat, everyone is up, and down… and up and down… leading to the encore and a final heartfelt thank you met with rapturous applause, screams and deafening whistles.

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It feels like there’s nothing this guy can’t do. There’s loops and machinery spliced into the set, there’s his pure vocal range on display and sounds that are unique to him, there’s his charming personality and his quirky style, and I know there must be so much more. Frankly, myself and the rest of the Birmingham audience were treated to a memorable, amusing and delightful night of entertainment, and what else could you want on a Friday night.

Newton Faulkner Setlist:
If This Is It
Indecisive
Bricks
Clouds
I Took It Out On You
Teardrop
Fingertips
I Need Something
DLMW
Million Reasons
Against The Grain
Take What You Want
Dream Catch Me
Shadowboxing
Cover Medley
Spongebob
Passing Planes
Write It On Your Skin

Encore:
Up, Up & Away
Orange Skies

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