Paolo Nutini, Wilton’s Music Hall, London – April 7th 2009
If all you’ve heard of Paolo Nutini is his radio-friendly 2006 hit New Shoes, seeing him live is set to be a revelatory experience. When he swaggered onto the stage last night waving a glass of red wine the crowd cheered; when he took his leave nearly an hour later he’d managed to reduce the tightly packed crowd to a quivering wreck with his brand of soulful, country pop…
Nutini’s return has been some time in coming, three years on from his 2.3million-selling debut album These Streets. He’s still only 22 mind, although you’d never guess that from his stage presence, his vocal delivery or his rich, smoky voice – are you watching James Morrison? The new bunch of songs he showcased on Tuesday are from June-released sophomore album Sunny Side Up and with it, he sounds very much like an artist who’s embracing his own style with some brio. Whereas Morrison has settled on blue-eyed soul as his genre, Nutini raced through a whole gamut of styles including country, folk, Motown, jazz, reggae, soul and pop.
Nutini kicked off with old favourite Alloway Grove, a manic stomp of a song to get the blood pumping through himself and his band, The Vipers, who looked like they’d just been beamed down from the 70s. Of the new stuff, the soulful Coming Up Easy showcased Nutini’s shriekily impressive vocal range, new single Candy has a fragile Radio 2-friendly air circling it and Pencil Full Of Lead, which Nutini proclaimed as his favourite song from the new album, is dripping with trumpets and hooks and is a nailed-down showstopper. The new material has a country edge to it, with Nutini’s lyrics dealing in angels, gamblers and honky-tonk – has he been mainlining Kenny Rogers in his sleep?
Besides the music, Nutini’s stage presence was a sight to behold. He rarely opened his eyes while he sang, his body hunched and feeling every word. “Is he on something?” wondered somebody behind me – but as far as I could tell, it was just red wine. This complete immersion in his songs certainly aids his vocals, which are crackling with longing and pain – Paolo is an old soul on young shoulders. By the time he got around to singing old favourite New Shoes, the crowd were almost emotionally drained; when his last tune turned out to be Last Request, the audience swooned as one. In a tiny venue, Paolo had triumphed – if you haven’t got a ticket for his upcoming tour, get one now.