Since soul singer John Newman burst onto the scene in 2012 with his intoxicating vocals searing through on Rudimental’s ‘Feel the Love’, all questions of him have been answered. Will this gruff voiced singer from Settle, North Yorkshire have the musical identity to forge a a career built on acclaim? Longevity? Sales? Two Brit Award nominations, three number one singles and a platinum selling debut. Evidence suggests so.
Part of the final tour for his inaugural release ‘Tribute’, his first date at Manchester’s Apollo Theatre represented this rapid climb. Looking around the swarming crowd it is easy to see the Newman appeal. Eager adolescents running from their inquisitive parents. Middle aged couples starting their week in juiced fashion. Ageing woman let off the leash on a Monday. In truth, there are very few he doesn’t cater for.
‘Blame’ – one of his chart-topping collaborations, this time with Scot Calvin Harris at the mixing desk – welcomed Newman to the stage as the white suited singer shot up above a set of lit stairs. Cannons shooting intense rounds of confetti regularly braided with the dancing light. Striking until the end.
Newman’s tracks embody the Motown genre he is attempting replicate in delivery and look. ‘Cheating’ glorifies the act of dual loving in repetitive, hook laced fashion with padded horns jerking the rhythms conjured by the remainder of his 10 piece entourage. Empowering vocals hoarsely meandered as Newman’s two-tone pompadour haircut bounced in every direction as its owner jumped ebulliently across the stage.
“One hundred days, two thousand miles to you, I’d run through day and night, we’ve got to finish what we started, we’ve got a lot to rescue darling,” was mused on ‘Running’ – dramatically opened with Newman aloft the steps, now common broken beats and a freeze-frame moment where ensemble and audience alike stood still for what seemed an eternity – another number based upon the fractured ardor experienced within the 24 year old’s maturing life.
Dancing wildly one moment twisting with guitarist and bassist alike, Newman’s confident approach was often shattered with genuine flashbacks to those harrowing memories. “I wrote this whole album about an ex of mine,” Newman would begin. “Bet she’s kicking herself now. But seriously I thank her because without her I wouldn’t be on this stage right now”. This triggered the wrenching ‘Down the Line’. It’s here that Newman’s crossover between soulful giants like Otis Redding and pop idols Rod Stewart appeared.
‘Not Giving It’ – laced with an almost hypnotic horn pattern, fragmented piano layers and more audience chanting – and his solo number one ‘Love Me Again’ – once again heightened by the dancing between Newman and his backing singers containing a vocal melody that could and will be at home with some of the masters he holds so dearly to his heart – rounded off his date.
So for all the questions that were once asked of the burgeoning star, now he has even removed his awkward tag from his stage shows. Newman is Britain’s new soul mega-star.
Words by Clive K Hammond