added: 9 Jun 2014
// gig date: 9 Jun 2014
reviewer: Rachel Gardner
Having seen him perform several years ago I was aware of what to expect, a strong voice and truthful songs that compensated for a slightly average delivery. However the man that walked out on stage this time wasn't the same man that scurried out all those years ago. Gone were the hunched shoulders, slightly awkward gestures and eyes focused on the stage below him. In his place a man who confidently slithered in front of the audience with the stance of a Shakespearean lothario, hips dipped and chest out.
The production has become more elaborate but still kept in the confines of tastefulness with just the occasional artistic projection on the back wall of the stage. His band the Vipers are stunningly tight and together, as though this is the only performance they will ever do and they have to make it perfect.
In the five years since Sunny Side Up was released Paolo has had a transformation, not only musically but also physically. Boyish good looks have given way to a robust form and poise, which in part is why the Brighton Centre is filled with women. His new physical stance has improved his singing ability, one that deserves to sit among the greatest voices around at the moment.
Throughout the set his voice veers near the edges of dangerous but always remains in the confines of wonderment even when it approaches its most fragile notes such as in ‘Diana’. He manages to relay emotion not only through the nuances of his voice but also how he commands himself, his face acting as though he is reliving every tear soaked goodbye or existential revelation. So much so that the desperation in ‘No Other Way’ makes you think he might just crumble on stage. ‘Iron Sky’ produces an ineffable sensation thanks to its borrowed images and speech from Charlie Chapin’s film The Great Dictator, and Paolo’s evocatively faultless singing of perfectly crafted lyrics.
There isn’t a huge amount of engagement with the audience, but certainly enough that fits the occasion. People haven’t come to hear him tell jokes or prance around in-between costume changes; he is not that sort of artist. He doesn’t have to rely on expensive light shows or arbitrary props; his strength lies in his ability to transmit his songs in a way that makes them sound like they were written that day, that he is still feeling them.
The older songs have been given a facelift of sorts and blended together or completely taken apart so that even though he crosses the boundaries of genres like pop, rock, soul and the odd psychedelic accompaniment, the songs feel like a cohesive whole. ‘Candy’ started with an atmospheric, moody intro and built into a tribal, primal beat, lending eagerness the original was without. The set ends with ‘Last Request’ that causes the audience to sing along without any prompting and for the first time that night causes him to look speechless.
‘Caustic Love’ appears to be Nutini’s seminal album just as 21 was for Adele and Back to Black was for Amy Winehouse. Both female artists are praised not only for their singing ability but for the way that they wrote / write about deeply personal issues in a way that everyone can relate to and Paolo belongs in the same category of truly talented artists.
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