GLASGOW Summer Sessions’ brief weekend sojourn in Bellahouston Park kicked off in emotional and occasionally triumphant style with Paolo Nutini’s biggest (sort of) hometown show.
Paolo Nutini and Grace Jones
Bellahouston Park, Glasgow
It featured his personally curated support bill of local lo-fi indie rockers Tuff Love, singer/songwriter Soak, the ever-incorrigible The View and the venerable Grace Jones, who kept the crowd hanging, as was her diva prerogative.
Her plane was delayed, she informed us, on taking the stage 45 minutes late. Plus that voodoo priestess body paint must be a right fiddle to apply. But open air gig curfews wait for no woman, not even the mighty Miss Grace, so the upshot was a truncated four-song set in which she never entirely hit her stride nor, with the notable exception of the magnificent Slave to the Rhythm, picked her best material.
Still, her enormous presence and eccentric personality made their mark. “Shenanigans,” she boomed while whipping a male pole dancer. There could be no more incisive review of her performance as she gyrated, flounced, hula hooped and generally made a gleeful exhibition of herself – though it transpired this was actually the name of her buoyant new Afrobeat number.
Nutini could hardly be more different as a performer – humble, sweet, quietly charismatic man of the people, but also increasingly confident and able to command a big arena with the passion of his delivery and the able backing of the soulful Vipers. The top drawer tracks from third album Caustic Love have raised the stakes, allowing Nutini to really show off what has always been an excellent soul voice. Now he has the songs which allow him to dig deep and deliver with testifying fervour.
The old school ache of Let Me Down Easy, the unhurried build of Better Man, sultry soul smooch of Diana and the redemptive swell of Iron Sky were all dispatched with compelling conviction, while the Stevie Wonder wah-wah of Numpty and psychedelic brass fanfare of Cherry Blossom reflected some of the glory on to the band.
This was a set of dynamic contrasts – the direct appeal of Nutini’s sweet pop vocals on the breezy homecoming pop ditty Alloway Grove, the rocking rhythm’n’blues retooling of Jenny Don’t Be Hasty which playfully segued into New Shoes, the moving solo reworking of Last Request were all shrewd ways to handle material he has somewhat outgrown, although Candy, accompanied here by a curtain of glittering pyrotechnics, remains the perennial fan favourite.