Review: Newton Faulkner @ The Factory Theatre (Sydney)

Newton Faulkner played The Factory Theatre (Sydney) on 28 March, 2024.
David James Young is a music writer and podcaster, working in Wollongong on Dharawal land.

Fletcher Kent is doing remarkably well for being a week old.

He's not an infant, mind you – he just so happens to have recently changed his stage name from Fletcher Pilon in order to recalibrate and establish a new chapter in his still-blossoming career.

With a new outlook and a shiny Gibson guitar, Kent is quick on the charm offensive. As the support act for Newton Faulkner at The Factory Theatre (28 March), he has the crowd singing along to a song they've never heard previously by song two, and in silent awe of two songs named 'Brother' – one a devastating original ode to his late sibling, the other a cover of Matt Corby's signature song.

The only real drawback to Kent's solo performance is his incessant use of a stompbox, a long-antiquated accessory that is intended to bring rhythm and energy but instead sounds like a downstairs neighbour hitting their ceiling with a broom.

For future one-man endeavours, Kent should try letting the songs speak for themselves a little more – especially when they seemingly have a lot to say.

Nearly 16 years removed from his first time in Australia and nearly five removed from his last visit, Newton Faulkner arrives onstage to a rapturous reception.

Long after he dropped off the charts, the English singer-songwriter has maintained a devoted fan-base down under – in fact, it's the place he has performed the most in his career outside of the UK.

The intervening years between performances evaporate almost instantly as he leads into 'Pulling Teeth' and 'Orange Skies' – neither of which are smash hits by any stretch, but in this room they're treated like arena-rock classics.

There's a unique push-pull dynamic between artist and audience as the show progresses. Both want at least a degree of control, and both end up getting what they want in different ways.

Faulkner, in the red corner, easily commands the crowd in three-part sing-alongs across several tracks – we're given our parts depending on what section of the audience we're in, and the room turns into a 'Sister Act 2' choir with Faulkner as our Whoopi Goldberg. He even gets the audience to clap on the two and four – a truly mean feat in this day and age.

In the blue corner, however, we're not going to let Faulkner dictate the entire set list. We're a rowdy bunch with very specific songs we want to hear. The crowd calls out for deep cuts from his multi-platinum debut album 'Hand Built By Robots' like 'Full Fat' and 'Gone In The Morning'.

Faulkner, full credit, happily rustles them up. "Do I remember how to play this?" he asks himself at one point, staring quizzically at his guitar. A drunken English punter replies, with perfect timing: "You wrote it!"

There are so many highlights across the hour-45 Faulkner is onstage that we haven't even touched that song yet – but, rest assured, 'Dream Catch Me' still sounds as heartfelt and earnest as it did when we first heard it circa 2007. It's the reason he was able to get here in the first place, after all.

The remainder of the set, however, demonstrates why he's been able to keep coming back: A dazzling display of guitar skills, a strong set of pipes and an arsenal of optimistic, endearing songs to show off both.

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