Balloons, paper birds suspended from the ceiling and masquerade masks. No, it was neither a masquerade ball done on a budget of a fiver that descended upon the Scala last night nor a poorly judged children’s party; it was instead Paloma Faith’s triumphant return to her hometown to promote her debut album, bringing some much needed glamour to the Scala in the process.
But before the audience were treated to the main event, they were served up an appetiser in the form of The Langley Sisters, surely one of the most aesthetically pleasing acts to have
ever graced the Scala stage. On a mission to transport the audience into the 1930s, the band used everything at their disposal from handclaps and snaps to xylophones and banjos. However, what was in danger of turning into a kitsch novelty act after the first couple of upbeat tunes full of harmonised singing, transformed midway into something special.
Maybe it was the introduction of the guitar or violin but, whatever it was, The Langley Sisters suddenly no longer appeared to be a trio of backing singers promoted to front of the stage. Songs such as Sing For My Supper and Bad Boy Blues added a touch of darkness and maturity to the set that made the audience stand up and notice. The harmonised singing no longer appeared to be an act but started to be integral to the songs as the band played with tempo and, by the end of the set, it was unlikely that there was a single person in the crowd that was not transfixed by this terrific trio.
With the crowd suitably warmed up, and extra balloons added to the set just for good measure, it seemed as though Paloma Faith might just have been in danger of being outshone by her support act. However, by the end of the first song, a storming rendition of her first single Stone Cold Sober, all of those fears were alleviated.
If there is one thing that Paloma knows to do, it’s how to transcend an ordinary gig into a show stopping event which is no surprise given her background as a magician’s assistant. Paloma interacts with the audience from the start with not just your typical ‘this next song is called…’ segments; she adds humour and a down-to-earth attitude that is impossible not to warm to. She’s not afraid to let her personality shine through on stage as expresses joy at the audience looking beautiful in her masks and mocking claims that Londoners are pretentious by saying that they know “how to have a knees up”.
Of course, this bubbly attitude on stage means nothing if it’s not backed up by strong music, after all this is a music gig, but neither Paloma nor her band disappoint in that aspect either. Paloma’s belting voice is equally as adept dealing with power ballads such as Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? as it is with the more sombre affairs such as My Legs Are Weak. Her backing band are just as good at maintaining the showier aspects of the gig with lead guitarist Seye Adelekan, sporting an incredible mohawk, performing a guitar solo practically in the audience during Smoke And Mirrors.
Paloma maintained her energy and playful manner, even showering the audience in feathers twice, throughout the set proving that she was not just doing this to wow her audience, this is just what her gigs are about. The set unfortunately came to a close after just 45 minutes (a minor selfish criticism as the entire crowd could probably have watched her for hours) with an epic Play On, which would not seem out of place if it had been played in a stadium.
However, after mocking the standard traditions of gigs by claiming her band could always be swayed to perform another song as they had “left one out”, Paloma came back onto the stage to perform her latest single New York with an added crowd sing along of Frank Sinatra in the intro. In the live setting, the song builds on the choir-backed ending of the recorded track to take on an almost reverential quality and there’s no doubt that by the end of the gig, there were a few more followers inducted into the Church of Paloma and believing in both the truth and something beautiful.
Criticisms of Paloma Faith in the media have often centred on the belief that she is Amy Winehouse-lite but, on the basis of tonight’s gig, this is clearly wrong, to the point where the reverse is true. Maybe Amy needs to go and invest in some balloons and origami lessons.
STONE COLD SOBER
SMOKE AND MIRRORS
ROMANCE IS DEAD
DO YOU WANT THE TRUTH OR SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL?
MY LEGS ARE WEAK
Words by Ian Sandwell
Photos by Lorne Thomson