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Still learning... but signs are promising

THERE'S a large drape over the Academy stage. If I didn't know better, I'd say we're in for a club-sized, arena-flavoured showcase courtesy of the boy they call John Newman.

When Tribute – the title track from young Newman's debut album – kicks into gear, a projector works its magic.

Look, there he is – smiling for the camera. And he's listing some of his biggest influences. Nina Simone, the Rolling Stones, Kings of . . . ah, here, drop the curtain. We're done.

Thankfully, it improves. Who needs a band of six? John Newman, obviously. All those red flashing lights – where does he think he is? The O2, obviously.

Let's get one more obvious statement out of the way – Newman can sing.

He's nominated for two Brit Awards next month, after first finding fame as a "featured artist" (they all do).

But singers with voices like Newman's rarely keep to the side.

You'd never know he's a Yorkshire lad. It could be that a) he's putting the whole soul thing on (sometimes he goes so red in the face you fear he might pop) or b) he's just that good.

I reckon it's somewhere in the middle.

extravagant

But damn, this 23-year-old can move – he's been keenly watching the greats and listening closely, no doubt.

The Academy is jammed. It's a whole lot of noise for a singer with just the one album, but Newman (now a number one-selling artist) is right at home under the spotlight.

He's left his white socks on too. Never mind – it matches the rest of the outfit. And that extravagant quiff of his is quite the sight.

The best thing about this chap is that he acts his age. He hasn't quite mastered the art of audience interaction, and he sometimes struggles with the high notes.

However, by the end of the night his sweaty, dishevelled appearance says it all: John Newman's had a blast.

outbursts

The ballads could do with some work – Newman's better at those break-beat soul outbursts (Love Me Again – his biggest hit), euphoric, end-of-set crowd-pleasers (Gold Dust) and big old shiny pop numbers (Losing Sleep).

He spends most of his time singing about troubled relationships, and although you wonder how long he'll get away with repeating the same trick, he's a whole lot better than some of his more famous counterparts (here's looking at you, Emeli Sande).

Newman's an energetic performer, smooth on his feet and still getting to know his microphone – stay tuned.

HHHII


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