Live Review: James Morrison, Newton Faulkner & Casey McQuillen at Globe Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees [25th March 2022]

A triple bill of feel good vibes topped by the return of James Morrison to the North East.

Words and Photos – John Hayhurst (@snapagig)

Slightly unusual feeling that we have stumbled into a forgotten time, an art deco theatre recently restored to its former glory is filled with what looks like a pensioners outing, maybe we have the wrong night and its bingo first…..nope I’ve checked and it’s definitely James Morrison. I just expected his audience average age to be less than 50. He is without doubt the new female over a certain age’s favourite, the newer model to Alan Titchmarsh who can sing rather than make plants grow.

First up is American Idol star Casey McQuillen who has enough energy alone to jump start any frailty felt in the front 20 rows, boy can she talk, and an ever more impressive singing voice too. Its her first time to UK theatres but expect her back on her own tour later in the year. She played some heartfelt country styled modern ballads, just her and a guitar Skinny being quite a sensitive and empowering tune. Then at the end she pulls out a Gibson SG and rocks a superb version of Etta James At Last, hitting every note perfectly, what a great start to the night.

Covers are the order of the day for the supports as next we get Newton Faulkner who could probably sell out this venue himself, after a great version of his own classic Fingertips, he runs through a stand up routine of covers he could do – You Spin Me Round Like A Record being the funniest, before settling on his take on Massive Attack’s Teardrop, its really mesmerising and beautiful, supplemented by a disco ball that projects lights all across the art deco walls and ceiling. His set seemed to go much quicker, but it isn’t long before we have James Morrison standing on the same stage and the opening bars of Precious Love are heard complete with his trademark gravelly voice. He looks really happy to be here, often giving little knowing nods to his faithful crowd in the front few rows.

Have to say the sound quality here is superb and every strum of the guitar and nuance of Morrison’s voice can be heard even at the back of the theatre. Most are sat down, but when he starts to play Undiscovered a couple bravely get up….to slow dance, this is turning into a strange night! However, the overwhelming feeling is that James Morrison is now in a place where he can breathe easily, it’s his first real venture back to the concert halls of the UK and he admitted that he “didn’t really know if anyone would turn up”. The tour is pretty much sold out on all dates and it isn’t surprising that his performance is warmly welcomed here, it is a non-stop collection of hit songs that everyone knows. Far from becoming the next James Blunt he has surpassed my expectations here, feel good, emotional songs delivered from the heart is the order of the day, and a break from the relentless news of war, covid and climate change.

Morrison himself has been through a tough life despite the instant fame feeling from his debut album. His voice largely attributed to a bought of whooping cough that almost killed him, school bullying, and more recently being dropped by his record label and having his daughter born 13 weeks premature. It’s not been as easy as most people will think, and as You Give Me Something closes the set he gets the standing ovation he truly deserves.

Coming back for a beautiful rendition of You Make It Real and a rousing Wonderful World with the lyrics “Well I Know That Its A Wonderful World But I Can’t Feel It Right Now” which just about sums up the state of the nation, however, with James Morrison back on a live stage again, this was a couple of hours of much welcomed escapism.

James Morrison Setlist:

Precious Love, Feels Like The First Time, Undiscovered, So Beautiful, Don’t Mess With Love, Please Don’t Stop The Rain, Nothing Ever Hurt Like You, Who’s Gonna Love Me Now, This Boy, Broken Strings, I Won’t Let You Go, Up, The Pieces Don’t Fit Anymore, My Love Goes On, Beautiful Life, You Give Me Something.

Encore: You Make It Real, Power, Wonderful World