Into darkness John Newman stepped onto the stage at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on 16th October 2019. He had performed at small intimate venues earlier on in the year as a way of reconnecting with his music and his fans but this was an altogether different beast.
Those gigs were a way of overcoming his very personal mental struggles with fame, of losing his way musically and finding a way to harness the energy inside of him to perform again not just for a handful of die hard fans but for a wider musical audience. Would they connect with him? Would the music reach their souls? Could he win the battle for hearts and minds?
The audience were hushed in anticipation for John’s arrival and then the spotlight exploded and drowned John in light and the stage shone with John surrounded by a full band and backing singers. His opening song was ‘Not Giving In’. The lyrics speak for themselves.
“Time to make these things feel right,
Oh, let’s start this show
Let’s shine this time”
From that first opening song John electrified and captivated an audience with his energy, passion and showmanship in delivering hit after hit after hit. From ‘Feelings’, ‘Cheating’ ‘Losing Sleep’ and ‘The hardest word is Goodbye’ these songs were anthems. They were a call to the audience to join in and celebrate John’s music by singing the lyrics back to him with fire in their eyes and love in their hearts.
One of my favourite of John’s new songs is ‘Forever’s not long Enough’ first performed at his small gigs tour I heard it performed at The Patterns nightclub in Brighton. Now with a full band behind him, it was sensational. It truly delivered a heartfelt message of keeping love alive across the ages.
Hit after hit, John’s energy and drive kept going reaching a crescendo with new songs like ‘Animal’ and ‘Without You’ ft Nina Nesbitt. For this song to really work live it needed Nina to be there on stage. And that’s exactly what happened when Nina walked onto stage and John and Nina performed the song. It was a surprise for the audience but one that drove their enthusiasm for John even higher.
John ended the evening with ‘Love Me Again’ a perfect way to end the concert. For all of John’s fears and anxieties simply melted away. He had captured the hearts and minds of the audience. This was John Newman reborn out of the ashes rising as a Phoenix again as the musical superstar he has always been.
Special mention has to be given to The Tors Band who have been opening up for John on this tour across England. The brothers Matt and Theo Weedon with Jack Bowden have been wowing audiences with their combination of electric harmonies and indie lyrics. It’s been great exposure for the band to play to such large audiences and they get to headline their own gig next year at Scala.