Paloma Faith / Mumford and Sons / Mr Hudson - The Forum, London
I used to be an ardent reader of Q magazine, even having a subscription at one point in time. Up until 2008 I was still picking it up on a semi regular basis, usually combining my reading of the issue with a long soak in the bath! Unfortunately money's a bit tighter this year so I knocked it on the head, browsing each new arrival down at my local library. I miss my bath time reading but I doubt they'd appreciate me dragging my tub down there to have a scrub amongst their clientele, studying or reading the daily papers. Mind you, I probably wouldn't get it through the doors of the 122 bus so it's a bit of a non starter anyway!
One thing that still interests me in the magazine is their annual Q Awards as I'm always curious to see who'll win. In recent years Q have held a series of London gigs promoting the event.This year saw the likes of White Lies, Biffy Clyro, Kasabian and Sonic Youth performing on the stage of London's Forum and I turned up for the final night of the shows to catch three acts New to Q.
Mumford And Sons were the first group on the bill. The London band have recently released their debut album Sigh No More and took to the Forum stage probably suffering jet lag after wowing New York audiences at their annual CMJ festival earlier in the week.
I'd actually seen the band playing Stateside myself earlier in the year at Austin's SXSW event. It was an early afternoon performance and I only popped into the small bar for a couple of songs so couldn't really judge their output at that point but I'm not really a fan of their rustic folk offerings. There were plenty in the venue who were though, with numerous fans sporting Mumford T shirts. I'd imagine they would have enjoyed the band's set as they seemed to really connect with their audience, with set opener "Sigh No More" looking a likely highlight with the band coming across like a UK Fleet Foxes. Banjo ridden single "Little Lion Man" also seemed to go down a treat alongside one of the later songs in the set, which saw a bit of dancing down the front after lead singer Marcus Mumford tried to incite a hoedown, asking fans to "Swing their partners round"! Although there were a lot of happy Mumford devotees in the house I'm sure there were a handful less pleased as I overheard someone later in the evening saying he only caught their last song as he imagined they'd be headlining. I doubt he was the only one to make that mistake!
The second band on the bill had been labeled Very Special Guests so I was racking my brain as to who it would be. A big time band, a hot new up and coming act? Who knew? When I arrived at the venue I was deeply disappointed to find out that it was only Kanye's mate Mr Hudson playing!
I'd originally seen the man and his Library performing at London's Buffalo Bar a few years previously, supporting Magic Numbers. That set had actually been quite fun as the venue is about the size of someone's front room but I'd caught festival sets in more recent times and wondered what all the fuss was about.
Hudson's white soul offerings just don't gel with me so I certainly wasn't having the time of my life when faced with some of the worst lighting states I've encountered in recent months during my time in the photo pit. So I retired to the back of the venue, letting his music completely wash over me as I spent the remainder of his set pressing delete on my camera!
I first became aware of the final act on the bill (and the one person I did actually come to see!) around the time of the release of her debut single. Channel 4 were showing one of their "Late night exclusive" video premieres and I tuned in to catch the first play of Paloma Faith's "Stone Cold Sober". In all honesty I wasn't too impressed on first listen so paid little attention to how it faired chart wise and didn't seek any of her other music out.
I try to keep my finger firmly on the pulse of pop so watch the likes of Chart Show TV's Fresh New Tunes on a weekly basis. At the beginning of August I watching one of the shows when Paloma popped up with her "New York" video. It was love at first sight as I was completely enamored with the song, the video and Paloma's big quiff and spent the next hour or so wearing out the rewind button on my Sky+ box, watching the video over and over!
I was lucky enough to find a five track album sampler containing "New York" on Ebay about a week later so was able to gen up on a handful of Paloma songs in time for her September show at London's Scala. I photographed the set for the 'Fix, enjoying the evening so was looking forward to seeing Paloma live again.
There was about thirty minutes to kill between Mr Hudson leaving the stage and Paloma appearing. In that time Miss Faith's road crew helped construct her elaborate stage setting, consisting of numerous balloons, tiny toddler sizes chairs and a pile of large dominoes. Paloma's a very inventive performer and it's always nice to see someone quirky firmly ensconced in the mainstream music scene.
Her debut album Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? has been a wee bit of a slow burner chart wise but a full scale assault on a number of terrestrial TV shows a couple of weeks back helped place the album in the public's consciousness, leading to a place in the top ten the day after Paloma's Forum show. It had already received a decent i Tunes placing by the time Paloma took to the Forum stage so it was surprising to see her carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders when she arrived to entertain the masses.
On second glance I realized that she was only hoisting a huge white balloon above her head as she made her way to the front of the stage to start the set with album opener "Stone Cold Sober", a track that I have since grown to enjoy!
The majority of Paloma's set was pulled from her debut, with "Smoke and Mirrors" coming straight after.
The balloon had been despatched into the audience during the first couple of songs but didn't make it through to the third, with Paloma lightly berating the audience saying "You really miss out when you get your hands on something beautiful then you destroy it"!
Paloma spent the rest of the set parading the stage, gravitating towards the teensy chairs in the centre, spending a lot of time singing teetering on the top of one them. How she didn't topple over in her big heels is a mystery but she managed to despatch next song "Romance is Dead' without a major injury! She dedicated the song - a track that scolds the male population for their lack of romantic gestures - to the men in the room, telling them to get their pen and pads out to take notes.
Paloma's singing style has been compared to the usual chart topping suspects peddling their retro 60's sound. However the chirpy theatrical songstress's voice also harks back to an earlier era of blues performers and I'm sure she also wouldn't have been out of place as a World War 2 forces sweetheart, geeing up the troops with the jumping jive of "Upside Down", a track that made a big impression on the Jools Holland show recently and one that went down a storm with the Forum crowd.
Although she may seem like an overnight sensation Paloma has been performing live for many years and reached in to her older repertoire to pull out a song in the shape of "Love Ya". She did ask us to make a moshpit for the upbeat track but I certainly didn't see any displays of rowdiness in my general vicinity!
Paloma wound up her set with album closer "Play On", asking the audience if they'd seen The Godfather and to get into that sort of mode for the song's intro, adding "If you want an encore shout 'cos I'm deaf!". She had a point as the opening is reminiscent of something from the movie's soundtrack and I'm sure she didn't need a hearing aid to register the loud roars of appreciation proceeding her return to the stage.
There seemed to be one song missing from Paloma's set so far and when she announced "This is a song I wrote about a beautiful city" I had a feeling we weren't going to hear a little ditty praising Bognor! A brief snatch of Sinatra's "New York, New York" proceeded the song's intro, an opening that always reminds me of the sort of music ITV would use in their little trailers - "Next up there's trouble in Midsomer"! It was a glorious rendition of Paloma's biggest hit to date, culminating in the lass falling to the floor, ending the song in a heap.
My second Paloma gig was just as entertaining as the first so I imagine I'll be seeking out another live appearance fairly soon. Paloma has a string of dates around the UK in November alongside a host of TV appearances, popping up on the likes of The Wright Stuff and The Alan Titchmarsh Show so there's plenty of opportunities to see her "doing her thing".