As the stream of female artists hitting the charts has turned into a torrent, it's been an interesting challenge working out who will stay the course. For Paloma Faith, the half-Spanish, half-English singer hoping to join Leona Lewis as a member of the Hackney-born musical elite, the outcome still very much hangs in the balance.
On paper, all the boxes are ticked - she is young (24), sings with a raspy insouciance at odds with her down-to-earth lifestyle, and sports a decidedly kooky haircut (cited in a recent interview as a potential inspiration to Amy Winehouse, for whom she was offered a place as a backing singer, and turned it down). Having, in a former life, worked as a magician's assistant by the name of "Miss Direction", the influence on tonight's performance is obvious, from the oversized dominoes and white balloons reminiscent of a peculiar pop Alice In Wonderland, to the tiny chairs and purple lights which create a sense of otherworldliness which continues throughout the set.
Paloma follows the order of her debut album Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful? with a few notable exceptions – some of the dead weight of the LP's middle order is cut out, the earlier release "Love Ya" is squeezed in, and the recent hit "New York" is saved as a suitably grandiose encore. During that period the influences come thick and fast, from the Winehouse-esque refrain of "Broken Doll", to "Romance is Dead" which contains more than a hint of the snarky 21st-century girl power of Lily Allen and Kate Nash.
Over the course of the evening the intensity of Paloma's musical output varies, as does the reaction it solicits from an audience who are, for the most part, fairly lukewarm. Exhortations voiced at the beginning of "Love Ya" implore the crowd to "make a mosh pit", but despite her best efforts (which include launching a giant balloon to be bounced around the crowd on the ground floor) often fall flat. The balloon, which becomes caught in the set's rigging and is popped by a disgruntled member of the crowd, is just one of the set pieces which fail to illuminate the show, the best example of which being a clearly premeditated portion of instrumentation where the band's guitar player kneels at the feet of Paloma while she is seated.
She is not without her charm, but female solo artists with catchy songs and more than a thimbleful of attitude are 10 a penny in the music industry at the moment – think Allen, Duffy, Adele and Nash, to name just a few – and it's hard to see what's going to mark her out as special if she is to achieve the feat of, as the compere announced just before the performance, "playing to 10,000 people this time next year". Still, with Paloma adding cute touches like beginning her hit single "New York" with the Liza Minnelli number of similar name ("New York, New York"), maybe, just maybe, this town is big enough for the lot of them.