Town Hall in Newtown, Johannesburg welcomed multi-award winning, soul artist John Newman to Johannesburg on a rather crisp Thursday night last week. The 23-year-old vocalist, who initially was supposed to perform at Sowing The Seeds, had to settle for performing in front of a sold out crowd at Town Hall due to the postponement of the renowned festival. Nevertheless, he rocked out with his cock out – nonliterally.
The night kicked off with Michael Lesar on the ones and twos laying down some nifty, swinging remixes of ’80s tunes, which the uncharacteristically older audience at Town Hall got super freaky to, super, super freaky – I mean it was quite a change to see people drinking red wine and dancing instead of popping copious amounts of MDMA and aggressively fist-pumping.
Beatenberg then took to the stage and within seconds warmed up the crowd with some jivey jams and straight away that “holy shit I’m going to dance to everything they play” feeling was firmly cemented in everyone’s heads.
After their immaculate set, it was time for the much anticipated John Newman to take centre stage. The Yorkshire lad glided on in a dashing, white suit with his trademarked coiffed hairstyle, which evidently swooned the cougar next to me who excitedly threw her bra onto the stage (not even joking). Accompanied by four other band members and two Motown-esque back-up singers, he kick started the gig with album title track ‘Tribute’, and then made his way through every song on his debut album whilst showing off his silky-smooth-white-boy dance moves in the process.
And man oh man, Newman’s vocals were something else too, from the keyboard ballads to the occasional stripped-down number and especially to the upbeat tracks – his voice was a glorious angel sent down from the heavens to come and grace our earholes with a plethora of bitchin’ tunes. His ’60s revival set was wrapped up with the encore of the Rudimental hit ‘Not Giving In’ and the familiar favourite ‘Love Me Again’, which the crowd sang along to in their best John Newman voice (everyone sounded like James Blunt though, me included, ha).
In all seriousness, Newman’s talent is next-level and it’s so refreshing to see an artist give a modern edge to a somewhat old-school genre. Give him some time and I’m sure he’ll be filling up stadiums regularly and hopefully he comes back to South Africa soon, so, we too, can love him again.