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Review: Newton Faulkner at Jack Rabbit Slim’s, 8 April 2018

Newton Faulkner’s show at the sardine tin that is Jack Rabbit Slim’s often toed the line between being comedy and concert – the result akin to a comforting hug from mum. The UK-born musician sported a veritable nest of dreads with short-cut sides, coupled with his cheeky grin and affable nature. It was almost as though he wished he were amongst the crowd, such was his glee.

Perth folk-rock group The Hunting Birds presented themselves as a duo, making for an intimate showing. Normally a five-piece band, only vocalists Kendra Fewster and Connor Minervini took to the stage, their instrumentation a single guitar. Hearing acoustic renditions of the usually bombastic ‘From the Ashes’ and ‘State of Mind’ was a real treat, and one that set the scene perfectly for what was to follow. Fewster and Minervini were the yin to Faulkner’s yang, the two engaging the crowd in a reserved yet jovial manner, while putting the focus squarely on the music.

Faulkner was the opposite, with surprising results.

During a brief interlude, Faulkner explained the intricacies of his loop pedal and electronic arrangements, including drums and bass, all of which could be worked with his feet to make him a one-man show. After explaining this, he quipped, “I don’t have a band that I’m ashamed of or anything,” prompting laughs from the audience, during which he went on to curse Derrick, his hypothetical bass player. A roadie’s unfortunate entrance shortly after prompted cheering and a chant of “Derrick, Derrick, Derrick!”, causing Faulkner to stop mid-song to burst out laughing. It was a show where the genuine warmth presented by Faulkner was absorbed and reciprocated by the audience, making for a sensational evening.

Like a school teacher utilising his commanding presence, Faulkner divided the audience into three groups when it was up to them to sing along. This led to astounding displays of synchronisation, where one part of the audience would sing along with Faulkner’s vocals, while the other two provided accompaniment. Visibly taken aback by the crowd’s first harmonies, Faulkner employed his fans for challenges of increasing difficulty, and each time they rose to the occasion. Their efforts blended seamlessly with Faulkner’s creative and mind-bending guitar antics, incorporating swift hammering with drumming on his guitar.

On all fronts, Faulkner’s performance was flawless. Ending with a medley of ‘UFO’, ‘Gone in the Morning’ and ‘Write It On Your Skin’, he was true to his word of not enjoying encore performances. He had previously described them as “enforced clapping”, and bemoaned standing in a room alone and awkwardly. No one minded, though, for what they had experienced was a show from a man who was as much a comedian as he was a musician, and it was clear that an encore would have been a forced end.

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