This was a second visit to Brighton for Paloma Faith in less than five months. Since her last appearance, her star has risen to giddy new heights. She was named Best Female at the Brits and ‘A Perfect Contradiction’ became her best selling album, reaching the top of the charts.
Another sold out gig – and further evidence that Brighton desperately needs a venue more capacious than the Centre – meant that the 33-year-old east Londoner had even more to live up to. A measure of her confidence was in the choice of support act.
Now I have to say I’d never heard of Vintage Trouble before seeing them, but like everyone in the audience I was blown away by the LA quartet who were quite possibly the best unknown support act I’ve ever seen. Within minutes, they’d won over the entire room with their enthusiasm and infectious songs. In Ty Taylor they’ve got an endearingly cool frontman, ably supported by the excellent playing of Nalle Colt on guitar and Richard Danielson on drums. They may be old school, but there’s no doubt Vintage Trouble will soon graduate to bigger things, they’ve a new album out soon and hopefully it won’t be long before they’re back in Brighton to promote it.
So far so good, but the good-times vibe soon came to an end, with an unexpected appearance by Paloma who introduced us to Owen Jones. For the next quarter of an hour or so, with Paloma standing onstage watching on, Jones gave a politically charged leftist rant about what’s wrong with society today.
Considering most in the audience had paid over £32.00 plus booking fees for their seats, plus a sizeable amount more to park their cars, be fed and watered and avail themselves of a souvenir programme and some merch, it seemed both indulgent on Paloma’s part and an inappropriate place for such a castigation.
Personally, I don’t think political stumping has any place at a concert and I don’t believe audiences want to be indoctrinated on the state of the nation when they’ve come to be entertained.
Fortunately, his fifteen minutes of fulminating was the only low point of the evening, but it was a shame that compared to Vintage Trouble who did a fantastic job of warming up the audience, Owen Jones only seemed to reverse their good work by lowering the mood.
When Paloma eventually got back to performing rather than politicising, her show was in many ways much the same as last time, but in others it was quite different. To look at, it was still monochromatic. The retro white multi-level set was back, as were the musicians, but this time they were all dressed in black, rather than white. Visually, that change was a big improvement. Paloma herself also looked a lot better than last time, sporting a typically quirky shiny black PVC dress with clear plastic panels.
And she was in great voice throughout, even if it she sounds like she’s imitating someone else, a feeling that’s emphasised every time she speaks as her singing voice bears no resemblance to how she talks. But perhaps what’s so endearing about her, is her self-depreciation. There certainly appears to be no fakery in the way she chats between songs where she comes across as someone who is genuinely grateful to be applauded for her music and still a little incredulous that people adore her.
Her kookiness, which is a big part of her appeal, is another reason she comes over as a real person, rather than a celebrity. She even tells the audience off: “You’re very quiet!” Adding “the last time I was here it was a Saturday night and you were absolutely mental!” When a few people begin screaming, she acknowledges them with the quip “My friends from the outpatients!” When she reflects on her decision to put Owen Jones on before her, Paloma just might realise who was to blame for their early torpor.
Musically though things are hard to fault. The stage is filled with talented musicians all sporting white instruments, including a three-piece horn section and The Faithettes, a trio of larger-than-life backing singers, namely Janelle Martin, Naomi Miller and Baby Sol. The joyful retro-soul sound the ensemble produced might not always have been that original, but it was certainly authentic.
Whilst always remaining the centre of attention, Paloma is generous enough to give everyone their moment in the spotlight and they all get a chance to showcase their musical chops. Most of the material played during the 18-song set came from Paloma’s nostalgia-laden Perfect Contradiction album, including her massive hit ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’. Other highlights were her cover of The Sisters Love classic ‘The Bigger You Love (The Harder You Fall’ and her theatrically sassy duet with Ty Taylor, who she brought back on to sing Aretha Franklin’s ‘Baby I Love You’ and, for a few minutes at least, he managed to upstage her.
Brighton clearly loved them both. And if Paloma and Vintage Trouble won their hearts, I’m not so sure Owen Jones won their minds.
Paloma’s latest album ’A Perfect Contradiction’ is out now
Vintage Trouble play Love Supreme on Sat 4 July, 2015