Paolo Nutini, Royal Festival Hall, London
Friday 18 June 2010
By the time Paolo Nutini swoops into "High Hopes", the third song of a rousing and beautifully chaotic evening, it's clear that any sense of decorum that the Royal Festival Hall exerts is hanging by a thread: nervous stewards (and bizarrely, or not, depending on how hard you care to think about it, ushers with mops), shepherd grinning, swooning dancers back to their seats.
All of which, frankly, comes as something of a jolt, because – tangibly – there's something about Nutini that still rankles with a good deal of the music-loving public. Is it that we expect our young pop stars to snarl and snap and generally bite their thumb in the direction of the kind of celebratory and, yes, mature songs that 23-year-old Nutini has made his craft? If this is the beef, then recent events have hardly done anything to sway public perception. He's just won a very grown-up award (an Ivor Novello for last year's Sunny Side Up) and here he is on a very grown-up programme for Richard Thompson's Meltdown festival. What an old soul he is.
One thing's for certain with Nutini, and that's that "soul" is just about right, not only in the gravelly cadence of his voice on songs like "No Other Way", delivered here with rasping, aching finesse, but also in his desire to nurture his own, and ours, too, if we'll allow him. The ska-infused "10/10" wafts by on a breeze of lilting horns; "These Streets", Nutini's paean to his Paisley home tugs at the heart strings; and the brassy joy of "Pencil Full of Lead" plays out like a lost snippet from The Jungle Book.
Thompson himself joins Nutini for the rootsy rhythms of "Growing Up Beside You", and there's time for a well-chosen cover or two (including Delroy Wilson's rocksteady classic "Riding for a Fall"), countless professions of love and lust from the stalls and time, finally, to reflect that here is a songwriter, regardless of the kicks, unashamedly and quite deliriously in love with music and in love with life.
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