Gig review: John Newman @ O2 Apollo, Manchester

It’s been a good year for John Newman as along with racking up three BRIT Award nominations, the young Yorkshireman has also managed to shift more than 1.3million records in the UK alone. 

So it’s no wonder then that the 24-year-old arrived on stage at the O2 Apollo last night to a packed out crowd. 

Fresh from playing his Edinburgh gig, Newman certainly wasn’t content with a low-key entrance.  A mash-up of TV appearances, high-electrane music and flashing lights reminiscent of the X Factor accompanied the Yorkshireman to the stage, who was looking dapper in a monochrome big-band-esque suit.

Kicking the proceedings off with Blame, Newman pounded up and down the stage energetically, showcasing Michael Jackson-style dance moves and a powerful, soulful voice to boot.

Backed by a nine-piece band of saxophonists, bassists, guitarists, keyboards and two female backing vocalists, the audience were under no illusions about what to expect, tight choreography and a well-rehearsed stage demeanor being thrust at the audience right from the off.

Casting an eye over the sea of heads bopping and swaying to the music, it was clear to see that artists such as Newman have done something most modern ‘pop stars’ could only dream of, and that is to capture a corner of the charts that unite young and old, from Motown Grannies to young R’n’B fans.  

Northern Soul, as Newman’s style of music is so aptly named, could be considered a mash-up of black American soul music, incorporated with a fast beat and heavy tempo.

During a brief interaction with the audience, the 24-year-old quipped: “I’m pretty nervous but it’s Manchester though, innit? It’s a big gig.”

Yes John, it was indeed a ‘big gig’. The 3500 capacity venue was sold-out, as are the next four dates on this run of his UK tour.

With his popularity ever-increasing off the back of his recent chart success with Mobo-award winning artists Rudimental, as well as his own song Love Me Again, which flew to the top of the UK charts in June last year, the young Yorkshire man has secured his status as a ‘one-to-watch’.

Newman appears to be taking to his new-found fame well, thanking his fans in his noticeably thick Yorkshire accent: “This is the best two years of my life.  And it’s growing and growing as we speak. I owe it all to you people here today.”

Proving once again to be a likeable lad, he thanked his Mum, who was in the audience of the show, and dedicated the song to her.

There is no doubt that there was a very proud Mother, grinning from ear to ear, somewhere in the sea of adoring fans.

By the time he had returned to the stage for the encore, the majority of the audience were  already on their feet, boogying to their hearts content, arms flying up in the air and hips-a-shaking.

The cabaret kid reintroduced his set with easy as an ode to those who have backed and doubted him. Informing the audience that the next track, Down The Line, saying:  “This next one wasn’t written by me anyway it was written by some girl ‘cause she fuckin’ broke me heart anyway didn’t she.”

Clearly a song close to Newman’s heart, the backing band and strobe lighting were omitted, with Newman a solitary figure on stage, belting out the words with ease, his unique, soulful voice hauntingly the only thing to be paid attention to.

Related Articles