Live Review: John Newman, Rock City (09/02/14)

John Newman could be the answer to many nostalgic listeners wanting to fuse together the sound of their dusty records with the synthesised music of today.

Nottingham’s crooner crowd waited expectantly for the man with a lot of hype surrounding his name. John Newman’s success has flooded the music radar quicker than the ‘Neck Nomination’ epidemic has swept Facebook. Newman peaked to number one in the UK Singles Chart this July and is nominated for two Brit Awards which will be held later this month.

He has reinvented an old genre of music.

The buzz surrounding the newly surfaced star may be down to the way he has reinvented an old genre of music. The Frank Sinatra fans of the 21st century seem starved of modern equivalents that aren’t working on cruise ships.

Newman launched the evening with ‘Tribute’, the title track of his debut album. The song began with Newman’s face projected onto draped red velvet curtains similar to a scene from the Wizard of Oz. A robotic voice scanned through a Hall of Fame list of artists contributing to musical history throughout the past decades. Newman humbly highlighted that his album was a ‘tribute’ to past influences and his fans before breaking into a powerful chorus. He was accompanied by a small band creating a colossal noise, sounding much more than they were capable of.

By the fourth song, ‘Cheating’, the audience were in full swing, mimicking Newman’s mambo and step-ball-change dance routines. No amount of extra hold hairspray could keep Newman’s bleached quiff in place as he zig-zagged between his band members. He was truly an entertainer engaging the entire crowd and breaking an almighty sweat.

‘Cheating’, which featured in the top 10 UK Singles Chart, exploded with energy. The quick, loaded drums timed with sharp hand claps jolted the audience into a dance frenzy. Disappointingly, the roaring horns in the produced single didn’t make an appearance. The soulful backing singers compensated for the lack of brass instruments by producing their own silky layer to the Motown-inspired song.

‘All I Need Is You’ was a surprising highlight, being one of Newman’s less proclaimed tracks. The song focused more on vocals with a calmer instrumental than his singles. John’s hoarse voice contrasted the soprano sound of his two backing singers. The girls’ repetition of the chorus sounded similar to Michael Jackson pre-adolescence. ‘Day One’ contrasted this with extravagant swirling guitar solos and shouted vocals. Newman paused the song to instruct the dancing crowd below to “Listen to this song when you’re pissed off!”.

‘Down The Line’, the next song, was a complete antithesis to the angry power song. This was a stripped-down track where Newman’s voice was only accompanied by a twinkling piano. Amidst the hyperactive light shows and competing instruments it is easy to overlook Newman’s striking vocals. ‘Down The Line’ was a reminder that John Newman is not only a talented preformed, producer, song writer and remixer, he can also sing.

The gig could not have ended in any other way. John Newman returned to the stage to the pleas of his fans in order to preform Rudimental‘s song, which he wrote and featured in, ‘Not Giving In’. The track included the heavily-produced drum and bass sound associated with Rudimental, which was an interesting change to his three piece band. Newman ended with the song responsible for his nomination of the Brit Awards Single award, ‘Love Me Again’. Rock City’s floor bounced as the fans sprung high, catching glimpse of Newman’s own dance moves and chanting back the infectious chorus.

Daisy Foster

…Daisy is listening to Billie Holiday – ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’…

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