Friday, December 04, 2009

Paloma Faith / Josh Weller @ O2 Academy 2, Thursday 3rd December 2009

Retro pop anyone? Yes, tonight had a distinctly retro feel. Hop in your Tardis (other time travelling devices are available), flash back 30 years or so ago and Josh Weller’s brand of quirky New Wave would be perfectly at home. Hop back in and go back a further 40 years and you can just see Paloma doing her thing in some swanky Manhattan club. Tonight we were in the slightly less swanky (but still rather nice…boy is this an improvement on the ‘old’ Academy) Academy 2 as part of sell out crowd that literally ranged from 6 to 65.

First up, if you’ve not seen a photo of him before, Mr Weller’s a curious looking chap with enormous Eraserhead hair (tonight it was somewhat tamed though), a pair of Elvis Costello style specs and a penchant for bow ties and tweed suits. This evening he wore a rather snazzy white jacket with black lapels, a black shirt and black bow tie. Shut your eyes and, at times, you could almost be listening to prime era Elvis Costello c.1978. Like our Elvis, Josh has a nice line in, well, nice lines. Take ‘Down in the City’s’ warning that “nice girls don’t go south of the river…” make of that what you will (I think it’s less about geography and more about biology myself…think about it…innuendo ahoy). His single release, ‘Push’ has shades of classic tunes like ‘Putting On The Ritz’ and ‘Istanbul (not Constantinople)’ and conjures up (in my head anyway) images of huge great Hollywood chorus lines. Classy. It was an endearing performance, from leading the crowd in an arms aloft singalong to ‘Push’ through to beseeching us all to buy a copy of his CD to pay for his tea. Awww bless him. Remarkably he’s still unsigned, which says more about the sorry state of the music biz than the quality of his performance, talent and tunes.

On then to the divine Miss F who, quite frankly, came on looking like a million dollars in a big white dress, ruff around her neck, 6 inch Betty Page style white shoes and (to start with at least) a pair of silver shield/wing kind of things strapped to her arms. Why don’t we all dress up like that anymore eh? Whoops, I wasn’t here to come over all Gok Wan (thank God I got those words in the right order) now was I, how was the voice? Soulful, sassy and as classy as a dry Martina (shaken, not stirred). Boy does she have a big voice, ably demonstrated on opening number (and new single) ‘Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?’(also the title of her debut album).Vocally, to me at least, she’s like a marvellous cross between Betty Boop (queen of the cartoon babes) and Bessie Smith (queen of the blues) - which is a pretty awesome combination in my book, although I’ve seen her compared to everyone from Amy Winehouse to Ella Fitzgerald. Tottering all over the stage and climbing up a pair of steps positioned at either side (a very brave move considering those shoes) she then gave us a belting version of breakthrough single ‘Stone Cold Sober’. Not a bad way to start a show eh?

After a couple of other numbers she picked up a tray of what looked like powdered paint and a powder puff during a slowed down cover version of the Akon/David Guetta track ‘Sexy Bitch’ and punctuated key lines in the song with liberal dabs of powder all over her lovely white dress, before resorting to drizzling the stuff over herself. It’s this focus on the theatricality of a performance that marks out Paloma as being a far more interesting proposition than your average artist and, I’m betting, as she gets bigger (which is a sure thing) the shows will get more and more outlandish. Bring on the dancing horses, fire breathers and sword swallowers that’s what I say. Or how about a fire breathing, sword swallowing horse eh? Over to you Paloma.

After a truly star making set (and a little tease about the chances of an encore being in the audiences hands) the last three numbers, if anything, took the show up a gear. As this was the last night of her tour Paloma promised us something special that she’d not done on any of the other dates and proceeded to sing a spine tingling version of Etta James’ ‘At Last’ (as seen on Later with Jools Holland). Joined by Josh Weller (now wearing a lovely tweed number) we were then treated to her Christmas tune from last year ‘It’s Christmas and I Hate You’ (a bitter sweet…actually scrap the sweet bit…it’s really bitter…little number). Check out the video at the top of this review. Finally she led us all in a spirited sing-along of ‘New York, New York’ which segued nicely into her own track about the big apple…handily also entitled ‘New York’.

Of course Paloma’s still right at the start of her career (even though she’s already been – in no particular order – an actress, a magician’s assistant and a dancer…good grief, makes me feel like lazy slacker). It’s a little too early to start gushing over her (and I’ve seen far too many artists fall or be dropped by the wayside before really fulfilling their potential), but Ms Faith, dare I say it, does seem to have the real X factor. Or, then again, especially given her early days as a performer at Burlesque shows, maybe that should be the XXX factor…

PS: At the end of the show I had the good fortune to bump into a lovely chap called Martin, the guitarist with brilliant late 90’s indie glamsters King Adora and can exclusively (oh yes…you read it here first) reveal that the band’s reforming for two special shows next April at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath and The Garage in London!

PPS: This review will also appear soon be appearing at my other home (Gig accompanied by some lovely photos from Mr Wayne Fox Esq.

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