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REVIEW: Bluesfest sideshow. Newton Faulkner, supported by Tom Richardson. Corner Hotel Melbourne. April 4, 2018. Review: Greg Phillips. Photos: Mark Moray of  Wicked Rock Photography

Like many touring artists over the last week, opening act Tom Richardson had also made his way down the highway from Bluesfest in Byron Bay to play the southern state. Performing his feel-good acoustic-based tales of love and peace, Richardson works hard to involve the audience, who respond enthusiastically to his chilled but accomplished tunes like the new single Somebody Say Love.

Such is the comfort Newton Faulkner feels with his Australian audiences that he takes to the Corner Hotel stage and begins with a bit of a chat, rather than launching straight into song. When the music comes, it’s To The Light, the first track off his first album, Hand Built By Robots, a track the crowd know well. A sing-along ensues and never really stops for the rest of the night, setting the tone and agenda for the show.

From the first track of his debut record, Newton follows with Smoked Ice Cream, the opening tune to his latest album, a song the audience seem to be even more familiar with. The joyous backing vocal part erupts spontaneously and loudly. Faulkner is impressed.

Returning to the debut album, Newton explains that I Need Something was the first song on which he decided to combine his love of songwriting with exotic instrumentation. A song which has gone on to define his sound.

On his current world tour, Newton is playing solo. In his hands are a range of exotically tuned Nick Benjamin guitars. On his left foot is a kick drum, connected to his right foot are a series of bass pedals, providing chunky and sustaining piano and organ sounds. An SPDX sampler controls his loops. The set up allows him to be as versatile as he wishes, taking song requests from the audience or chatting for long periods of time, depending on the vibe of the crowd. Tonight’s vibe is clearly interactive, with many song choruses left to the audience to complete. They know and sing EVERY song of the evening.

Fingertips from the new album Hit The Ground Running showcases Newton’s stunning vocal range, followed by an energetic performance of that album’s title track. With the audience in such great form, he invites us to sing the rhythm section of the song, a task normally supplied by his loop system. Dream Catch Me, one of Newton’s biggest hits then forces the decibel meter to dip into the red, as the self-appointed choir go into overdrive. A cover of You Spin Me Round Like a Record is requested and Newton complies without skipping a beat.

Faulkner forgoes the conventional encore ruse, knowing he’d be coming back anyway and suggests he may as well just stay on stage and play for longer. A medley featuring UFO and Gone In the Morning wraps up an evening of pure delight, not so much a concert but a catch up and singalong with a crowd of old friends and most likely some new ones too.

Tom Richardson

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