I love Pizza Express Live gigs. There’s nothing better than watching talented musicians perform in mellow, intimate venues such as these – the musicians themselves always look like they’re having a great time – and the audience responds accordingly.
Having visited PEL Maidstone recently, to see Harriet, tonight I found myself at PEL’s newest venue, in Holborn. We were here for Newton Faulkner, a musician I’ve long-admired. He’s known for being a great live performer and there was a real sense of anticipation as the sell-out audience waited for him to appear on stage.
“This is my first gig of the year”, Newton Faulkner announced, to loud cheers. “If at any point I look confused it’s because, in my head, it’s still Christmas!” From there, straight into ‘To the Light’ – several times. “Oh no – that’s wrong!” Much to everyone’s amusement (including his own) he had to restart the song several times. “That’s the first track from my first-ever record – I can’t believe I don’t know how it goes!”. All was well in the end, however, and we were off to a storming start.
From an oldie to something much newer: ‘Smoked Ice Cream’, the first track on NF’s new album, ‘Hit the Ground Running’ – an instant classic, which I recommend checking out if you haven’t already done so. Next came a particular favourite of mine: ‘I Need Something’, from arguably NF’s finest album, ‘Hand Built by Robots’.
By now, the audience was in raptures and only too ready for a spot of audience participation. Gamely, we divided into three groups, to “help” Newton sing ‘Something’s Bound to Change’, enjoying ourselves immensely in the process (although it’s fair to say I don’t think EMI will come calling any time soon).
Following a delicious rendition of ‘Teardrop’ came an equally enjoyable performance of ‘There is Still Time’, which showcased Newton’s vocal range perfectly. Next, Newton moved to the piano, somewhat nervously: “I’ve only ever written a couple of songs on the piano…I’m still terrified of them”, he confessed. Of course, he was being far too modest – ‘The Good Fight’ went down a storm.
He’s also brave – the second half of the show brought more audience participation, on ‘Never Alone’. “You’ve redeemed yourself from earlier failures”, Newton grinned at us, as we spluttered mirthfully on our wine (thirsty work, being a backing singer). ‘Finger Tips’ and ‘Bit by Bit’ came next…just glorious.
We were nearing the end of the show, now, and you could just sense a medley coming on. Just as well, really: “Fancy a medley extravaganza?” Newton asked. Of course we did. A blissful combination of ‘UFO’, ‘Gone in the Morning’ and ‘Write it on Your Skin’ ensued before he, and we, regretfully departed the venue – having collectively had the most fabulous time.