To begin a gig at The O2 with a speech by a left-wing writer is not something conventionally expected by a pop musician. For this speech to then be followed by a band (Vintage Trouble) that have an authentic, old-school rock n’ roll vibe is also not something conventionally expected by a pop musician. But these two things happened on Wednesday (25th March) when Paloma Faith prepared to take the stage to her sold out show at The O2, performing in front of one of her largest ever crowds. Blending music and politics and evoking a raw nostalgia, Faith descended the stairs on her stage, elegantly beginning with a tamer version of her number one hit with Sigma, ‘Changing’.
Once performing a few more songs (‘Mouth to Mouth’ from her most recent record and ’30 Minute Love Affair’ from her second effort), Paloma Faith addressed the audience in her iconic speaking voice where she revelled in the fact that she was “back home” in London. Her genuine aura and personality bled into the audience as she talked about why we should all vote at the upcoming election before then spilling her glee at recently being awarded Best Female Solo Artist at this year’s BRITs. This genuine aspect to the show never lost its permanence, where she later told us anecdotes about her socialist mother supported by her wild cackle.
The first part of the show consisted of lesser-known tracks, tending to be slower in pace. With one of the most dead audiences known, Paloma Faith’s urges for people to get up and dance (all audience were seated) initially fell flat. Those that did stand up and danced were urgently told to sit down by other members of the audience. Although totally out of Faith’s control, the lack of buzz from audience members meant an abrupt disconnection from the intimate illusion Faith was trying to construct. Instead, the audience seemed hyper aware of the tense atmosphere that surrounded them. Faith continued to urge the audience to stand and it wasn’t until top ten hit ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ that the audience began to rise and lose themselves.
There is no question that Paloma Faith is exquisitely talented. Vocals were consistently on-point, whether Faith was dancing to the fast-paced ‘Trouble With My Baby’ or whether she was lying on a piano and singing to the delicate ‘Just Be’. But with disappointingly no costume changes and the show itself being unexpectedly visually tame and repetitive, Faith seemed to bid goodbye to the outrageous fashion sense that helped rise her to fame with her first album, but stripped back with faultless vocals, offering a different kind of performance than anticipated.
The show took a while to take flight and it wasn’t until the encore (consisting of ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’, ‘Can’t Rely On You’ and the Tina Turner cover ‘River Deep, Mountain High’) that the show really became everything it should have been. Faith ended by saying that she had been “a perfect contradiction,” making reference to her latest album. Her clever wittiness, her exuberant personality and her political passion supported the show that began lacklustre and finished explosively. If only the audience was as full of love as Paloma Faith evidently is.