Madder than Brian Mad from Madchester, based on her appearances on Never Mind The Buzzcocks, anyway, Paloma Faith is a perculiar yet likeable artist. And so it proved…
Date: June 15, 2013
Venue: Sherwood Pines
Paloma Faith is an intriguing equal parts mix of a bonkers comedian and a 50s-obsessed diva with an attitude for infectious poppy hooks.
So it’s no surprise that this Forestry Commission gig is a sell out, with fans getting the chance to see her in a glorious outdoor setting, and those who are simply curious getting the opportunity to check out her sanity/artistry to make their minds up about her once and for all.
Although it’s to her credit that that question remains unanswered because, when she talks (mainly about Robin Hood, Merry Men and, more alarmingly, the existence of tree spirits…) she sounds like the slightly unhinged girl from BBC sitcom Outnumbered with her coy tones and scratchy Landan accent, yet when she sings, she’s angelic and enchanting. The word ‘enigmatic’ doesn’t begin to describe her.
She segues seamlessly from ickle girl lost to soul-pop diva with consummate ease. It’s almost as if once her band pipe up, she becomes possessed. Not by tree spirits, but by the Spirit of Soul.
Snaking across the stage in a slinky, sparkling green vintage dress, dangerously high heels and black fascinator, she’s sexy and sultry, and brings an air of elegance and sassiness to this small woodland clearing in Sherwood Forest.
“I lav it up north. We’re so miserable down there (south). So much enthusiasm”, she explains to the crowd after opener ‘Agony’ has everyone jumping, largely because its chorus blatantly ransacks The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’.
And anyway, luv, this isn’t the north. But then to a Londoner, anywhere north of Watford Gap is considered ‘The North’.
But these minor discrepancies are forgiven by virtue of the fact that she’s so delectable. Diminutive in stature, yet huge in presence, she captivates the Forest with her powerful and silky voice.
We’re treated to the hits, of course, but the real beauty lies in two soulful covers: first in the form of INXS’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, and secondly with Etta James’ ‘I’d Rather Be Blind’.
When she slows things down she’s a sizzling pop princess, seductively sliding her tiny frame onto the piano and making provocative shapes, but when she cranks it up, she’s a kinetic ball of energy.
The glossy ‘New York’ is a polished gem; ‘Stone Cold Sober’ is a glam stomp of soul-funk, ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ is unabashed 80s disco and ’30 Minute Love Affair’ is like a lost Madonna number. One of the good ones, that is.
As expected her in-between song patter is comedic gold. Engaging stories are told and zany wishes imparted (that’ll be the tree spirits…), and even when she’s in full sassy mode lay atop that piano, when someone shouts “Love you Paloma!” during a pause in the music, she retorts sharply with “But how long will it last?”, before continuing the song as if nothing had happened. Genius.
Typically, she saves her best song until last. ‘Picking up the Pieces’ is majestic, with swirling ticker tape turning the stage into a giant snow dome.
Its subject matter maybe a sad tale of woe and longing, yet it sounds joyous and rousing.
She was zany, she was gorgeous, she was brilliant. She enchanted the forest (and all its ickle tree spirits).