Newton Faulkner,Brandi Carlile Live Review @ Apollo (Manchester) - 02 Mar 2008
Photo Credit:Jill Davis
A masterful, dusky voice lunges out with impunity and the slickly clad, Brandi Carlile uses her honest American charm to send visions of Sheryl Crow being produced by Tori Amos into the thoughts of an accommodating early gathering. Using her unassuming, affable charm both during and in-between songs, along with the chiming guitar tag and country slanted percussion of a well-drilled backing band. Brandi turns proceedings into a Sunday night Jackanory time with the engaging, range bobbing, Tori Amos touching tale of fate and hope, 'The Story'. Despite being a little rockier, pacing and a little less diverse than the act everyone has come to see, signs are there that this amiable character is winning some friends.
A bracing cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, imparts a welcomed surprise element and the paradoxical qualities of the original are not lost, but Carlile's friendlier tone provides a different perspective on the work of rock music's great enigma. Brandi leaves the stage and several people whip out their mobile phones/electronic diaries, ensuring that they make a note of this bright performer's forthcoming cosy gig at the Night & Day Cafe, just across the city.
Why the T-shirts at the merch' stand don't proudly display the message; "Acoustic guitars are just for strumming, ya know?" remains a mystery and a slight disappointment. This is certainly the message that dreadlocked troubadour, Newton Faulkner illustrates through throbbing opener 'To The Light'. Punctuating his pleading points with deft and stirring percussion sounds courtesy of a plugged in acoustic guitar. Whereby, he displays the versatility and robustness of Rodrigo Y Gabriela and Joseph Arthur.
Forthcoming single and life-assessing ballad 'I Need Something', keeps the solo section in a thoughtful and delving mode. Gently stirring, but not yet shaking a crowd experienced in the process of a Newton Faulkner gig. The storyteller and entertainer side of the roving character comes out to illuminate the interludes, as local pub style banter ensues.
When the full band enters the fray, The Professor, gives 'People Should Smile More', a funky trot to help along the lead man's deeper, more soulful range. The extra personnel starts to draw out a blues edge, 'All I Got'' and proceedings start to open out. Frivolity of a 'We Are Gonna Be Friends' style The White Stripes , is displayed along with a fuzzy Dylan touch in 'She's Got The Time'. This the moment most of the gatherers lays down their guard to the earthy expansiveness on show.
Earlier frivolous banter with the crowd pays dividends, as a relaxed air descends and attendees have no inhibitions over turning 'Dream Catch Me', into an all inclusive Sunday night chorus. Surprisingly, the enthusiasm spills over into 'Gone In The Morning' and a graceful mini mosh pit forms, bouncing almost in tandem with each guitar chord.
Faulkner's inner child comes gushing out in the encore when the theme track to 'SpongeBob Squarepants' is bellowed out with juvenile joy, not just by the performer either. Then a complete change takes place and a gripping, acoustic led rendition of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' seals a warming, roving and slightly off-kilter evening from a talisman of searching music.
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