Eliza Doolittle - Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall
Following her support slot with Paloma Faith last November, UK pop princess Eliza Doolittle returns to Wolverhampton with her own headline show. This time round, the support duties go to Aaron Wright and The Hall of Mirrors; the former warms up the sold-out crowd with his melodic guitar pop, his final song bringing to mind The Shins, but it's the second act that takes top honours with their pretty and gently psychedelic pop made all the more intriguing by lead singer and keyboardist Jessica Spencer's distinctive voice, which is a bit 'Emiliana Torrini does Karen Carpenter'. Look out for them.
Around nine o' clock though, Doolittle takes to a stage that is unquestionably hers; unquestionably because, thanks to a cheeky backdrop of two giant arching legs flaunting Nike rollerskates, the bold and summery aesthetic established on Doolittle's debut self-titled album is recreated in the Wulfrun. Doolittle herself is cute as a button in a skimpy black top and spangly denim hotpants, long locks cascading to her waist (it's no wonder she's recently been snapped up by a top model agency) but it's not her 'carefree London gal in summer' image that has filled the venue to capacity. From the moment jaunty opener 'Moneybox' hits, it's clear that Doolittle is here to guide us through a Saturday night celebration with her upbeat pop sound.
She's backed by a band that has filled out somewhat since last year's supporting gig, with six other players joining in the fun and seemingly taking fashion tips from Cee-Lo Green's backing group with their synced retro shirts. Doolittle herself shows some skill with an instrument by playing plinky-plonky keyboard during 'Rollerblades' and 'Empty Hand', a ballad co-written with hitmaker Greg Kurstin, but she's at her best when she's prancing around the stage and delivering her hits with an easy charm. Her voice is sweet and, as anyone who's heard her version of Radiohead's 'Creep' (sadly absent) will attest, surprisingly powerful but her music demands a lightness of touch which means there's thankfully no 'X Factor'-style warbling on show.
The singles inevitably get the biggest response, with 'Skinny Genes' and 'Pack Up' bookending the set, the former's borderline risqué chorus apparently flying over the heads of the abundance of parents with young children in the audience. The tempo and lights are brought down for an acoustic take on 'Police Car', where the band exits and Doolittle serenades us backed only by gentle guitar strums. 'A Smokey Room' is my personal highlight, and not because it's the point in the show where Doolittle plays that trick of splitting the audience and getting them to sing different parts of the chorus, but instead because it shows how good she might become; all the talk of her being the new Lily Allen might add up if you consider how she delivers the song's scathing observational lyrics in her sultriest vocal of both the album and the night.
As with most acts who only have one album to their name, there's some filler, namely a B-side, one new song that seems to still be in the development stage, and covers of Bruno Mars' 'Grenade' and a decidedly better take on Kanye West's 'Runaway'. By the time closer and new single 'Mr Medicine' ends the night with a cheery sing-along though, the bandage of winter has been pulled off and we can all leave the Wulfrun looking forward to summer and a time when we ourselves may choose to wear denim cut-offs and trainers and stalk the streets singing joyfully of moneyboxes, rollerblades and police cars.
Moneybox / Skinny Genes / Go Home / Nobody / A Smokey Room / Back to Front / Missing / I'll Be Your Pillow / So High / Rollerblades / Police Car / [New Song] / Grenade / Pack Up // Empty Hand / Runaway / Mr Medicine