THE vibe of the venue was pure Phoenix Nights – all chipboard, false ceilings and very faded glamour.
Boston Arms, London
Star rating; * * * *
The atmosphere was one of barely contained glee as an audience of quick-on-the-draw fans and invited guests anticipated the live debut of material from Paolo Nutini’s long-awaited third album.
Caustic Love represents another great leap forward for the Paisley pop star, and there could hardly have been a more confident live baptism than this intimate showcase gig.
With the highly able backing of his expanded ten-piece band, Nutini hit the ground running with low-slung new single Scream (Funk My Life Up).
Quickly, one sensed that there was going to be hearty deployment of the all-new horn section and gospel backing singers – though his original bandmates provided spot-on background vocals in their own right.
Most of the new album followed: impassioned rocker Cherry Blossom, the lovely, laid back Looking For Something, inspired by and dedicated to his mum, who was in attendance with other members of the Nutini clan, plus the slinky Let Me Down Easy, built round a Bettye Lavette sample, and the meaty Fashion, with rapper Angel Haze on hand in person to deputise for album guest Janelle Monae.
The slowburn conscious soul epic Iron Sky, which tips its hat to Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield and samples a portion of Charlie Chaplin’s rousing final speech from The Great Dictator, was a particularly impressive indicator of where Nutini is heading – somewhere classic where few of his peers have thought to look.
Nutini has progressed as a performer too, displaying a far more extrovert stage presence, properly playing to the crowd and using his voice less self-consciously than before. Another set highlight, the brooding soul number Diana, found him in fluent falsetto mode.
With the bar set high, older songs played catch-up in reworked renditions. No Other Way was delivered with greater testifying fire and Pencil Full Of Lead, formerly a Louis Prima pastiche, was reborn as a Plastic Bertrand-meets-Springsteen stormer.
Perhaps fired up by the encore cover of obscure punk rocker Common Truth, the closing medley of Jenny Don’t Be Hasty and New Shoes was delivered with a gruff metal vocal.
Understandably, the fans lapped up something familiar but there was a strong sense, much like watching the all-grown-up Arctic Monkeys bash through their early teenage hits, that Nutini just ain’t that kid anymore.
Seen on 11.02.14