John Newman gets back to basics in thrilling, sweat-drenched show of self-discovery - LIVE REVIEW
It’s a rainy and humid Sunday night in Hull.
In among the rows of tatty, terraced houses, take away food outlets and second hand shops, there’s a couple of hundred music lovers squeezed into a street corner pub, clapping and singing along heartily to the numerous hits of a man who’s enjoyed number one songs, a jet set lifestyle and all the trappings of fame.
Welcome to The Polar Bear and welcome to the new world of John Newman – a world in which he couldn’t be happier and a world in which the limos, the posh hotel rooms, the Radio 1 playlists are behind him.
But let’s roll back seven years to get to where we are today.
2012 and with Britain going Olympics crazy, the country was also getting its first taste of the quiffed Yorkshireman, strutting his Northern Soul dance moves with songs such as Feel The Love and Not Giving In alongside Rudimental.
Solo success followed with songs such as Love Me Again and Cheating and the success and all that goes with it, kept coming.
But somewhere along the way, John Newman hated what he’d become.
The sharp suits and shiny shoes, the swanky parties, the showbiz lifestyle had all taken their toll.
He’d ploughed on through personal tragedies and upset, realising that arenas and whizzing around the globe were not where he wanted to be.
So fast forward to 2019 and the final date of his Out Of The Blue tour, Hull’s Polar Bear the last date on a tour of sweatbox, sticky-floored pubs, each filled with no more than a few hundred fans and a stripped back set and performance.
Fall from grace? Far from it. His beaming smile throughout an energetic and at times, tender and emotional set, is John Newman rediscovering himself and dealing with his demons head on.
He’s got lots to say – and not just in his music either.
Between songs, he talks candidly about his battles with depression, successful fights against brain tumours and how at the height of his fame, he’d become disconnected from fans, trapped in the music industry bubble where he was told how to look and what to sing.
But no more.
Casually dressed, hair tousled, dyed quiff and ties gone, Newman casually strolls through the audience, swapping high fives and kisses with his adoring fans as he takes to the stage, his beloved mum Jacquie in tow.
From then on, its pretty much a full-on love in between singer and fans, which reaches a crescendo when a couple of drunken women, seemingly intent on ruining the show by heckling are subjected to cries of ‘out out out’ from the crowd amid massive cheers when they are thankfully ejected from the venue.
Of course, all the hits are still here, alongside the newer, non-conformist songs that Newman wants us to hear.
That wonderful voice takes us on a journey from the upbeat bounciness of Come And Get It through more touching moments such as an emotion-fuelled cover of Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody and Mama, a love letter to his mum, who he describes as his best friend, again to massive cheers.
Naturally, Love Me Again is a true punch the air, singalong moment but perhaps the highlight of the evening is set closer Stand By Me, not only a touching reach out to his wife but also his fans who have stood by him in what have obviously been some troubled times these past few years.
He’s still got dreams of playing Wembley Stadium and if they pop playing field were fair, he’d be playing it.
But the music world is a fickle business, especially if you don’t play by the rules.
John used to. But now he’s happier doing his own thing, writing and singing the songs he wants to sing, playing the venues where he can see and, excuse the pun, feel the love from his fans up close and personal.
He freely admits the tour has been a ‘head clear’ – a soul-searching voyage of rediscovery and a chance to be himself again.
This was a magical and emotional evening for all and although John might think he’s bouncing back, for many of us, he never went away.
Love Me Again? We never stopped, John.