Live Review: Newton Faulkner – The Old Woollen, Farsley – 30.04.24

Newton Faulkner is a bundle of energy as takes the stage, 15 minutes later than planned, as the sold out crowd took longer to get into the Old Woollen in Farsley. He is the kind of performer that looks like he is always on the verge of a smile, or breaking into infectious laughter. It’s admirable, as he’s been a busy man of late. When we spoke a few days before the gig, Faulkner had just returned from a tour of New Zealand and Australia, which in turn, had come hot on the heels of dates in Ireland.

That energy though, instantly draws a warmth from the crowd, even those who have spent well over an hour leaning on the barrier with no support act to entertain them. They’re all delighted to see and interact with their hero. They’d probably have happily waited another hour looking at the sparsely populated stage, just guitars, a kick pedal, and a peculiar contraption stage right. This is Faulkner’s “junk hat”. More of this later.

When Faulkner takes the stage, he gets straight into it, opening the set with Been Here Before. It’s not long before that infectious enthusiasm bubbles over to the crowd, as in only the third song – Take What You Want – the crowd is split in two and conducted in a call and response. This is a bit of a theme. The crowd is regularly assigned different parts, almost like a human loop machine of a Gareth Malone choir and it brings audience and performer into ever closer harmony.

There’s a great relationship between Faulkner and his fans. There are 3 additions to the planned set list. The Good Fight came when the battery in the in-ear monitors ran out and he filled the time effortlessly. The other two come from audience requests and Faulkner’s willingness to improvise. He clearly knows how to read the room and how to get what he needs from the crowd. There’s a version of Ageing Superhero, and towards the end, he races through UFO, which has featured elsewhere on the tour, but wasn’t on the handwritten list at his feet.

One thing is clear from the whole 2 hour performance. Newton Faulkner is a master of his instrument, and loves to experiment with rhythm. The junk hat is a great addition to the sound – essentially a small dustbin lid with chains poked through it. It creates a richer, more visceral sound compared to a standard hi-hat. The intention is certainly to try to make people dance more – something that really sets Faulkner apart from a typical singer-songwriter, pouring his heart out in depressing songs. While there was humour, laughs and a lot of conducted participation, the crowd was quite reserved. It was perhaps one of the politest gigs I’ve been to in a long time. 

That doesn’t detract from the technical quality of the performance, but it did feel that the audience was better suited to a seated, theatre-style environment for this version of Faulkner’s show. Some of the dates on the tour will be in that vein, and it feels like it might just suit the tone of the show better. 

So, all in all, it was a real masterclass of rhythm and guitar playing with one of the most wholesome crowds I’ve been in for a long time. If you’re looking for a nice night out, complete with a good few singalongs, then this is definitely the show for you. If you’re after something where you can let go and really dance, this crowd fell a little short of matching the energy of Faulkner on stage.

Set List
Been Here Before
Never Alone
Take What You Want
I Need Something 
The Good Fight – interlude
People Should Smile More
Hit The Ground
Pulling Teeth
Orange Skies
Ageing Superhero (request)
Finger Tips
Dream Catch Me
Smoked Ice Cream
Gone in The Morning
UFO (impromptu)
Bohemian Rhapsody 
Write It On Your Skin

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