Last week in London, Paloma Faith performed at the Barbican with the 42-piece Guy Barker Orchestra. Both were phenomenal, and here’s why.
Paloma Faith, true to her roots as an East London girl and jazz cabaret singer through and through, spoke with honesty, warmth and frankness to the packed-out Barbican, one of London’s most vibrant hubs of art, music and culture. She spoke of how honoured and privileged she felt to be a modern-day pop star touring with a full orchestra. “This is real music… what you get with me is the truth, and not a lot of people in this industry can handle that” she said. And she couldn’t have been more right.
Guy Barker and his orchestra warmed us up for thirty minutes with a ‘Paloma overture,’ along with some stellar solo performances by Paloma’s talented and charming backing singers, Naomi Miller and Sabrina Ramike. They both shone throughout and especially dazzled in the finale.
Paloma appeared in a Pop Art inspired orange gown with a huge ‘Pow’ style black and white glittered embroidery star on the side. She sounds phenomenal live and I had goose pimples when I heard her sing her first few bars.
Paloma has two top ten double platinum UK albums, with a good smattering of hits – my favourite of which is ‘New York,’ a song about loosing a lover not to another person, but to the city itself. I was thrilled to hear Paloma sing it live. She said after it, “I forgot we were doing that one, sorry if it was a bit flat.” It most definitely was not.
We heard a fantastic rendition of American soul singer Bettye LaVette’s ‘Let Me Down Easy,’ as well as older jazz and blues songs. Paloma is not just a pop star – she sings such a wide range of genres with such talent and passion, the label ‘pop star’ is not enough for her. It’s almost as if she’s been teleported somehow from the 1920s jazz age or 1950s Hollywood. If she were around back then, we’d still be playing her records today.
This was a seated gig, although we weren’t in our seats for the whole time. There was plenty of opportunity to get up and dance, with Paloma encouraging us to get moving throughout.
The encore with ‘Picking Up The Pieces,’ her highest charting UK single (at number seven), brought the house down with golden confetti raining.
In many ways, Paloma is an ‘anti-Pop Star,’ in that she stands for credibility, originality, live raw vocals, original songwriting and an honest, down-to-earth persona – qualities that so many of her Popland compatriots so often lack. But for now, I’ll just call her a Star. She is one, in the true sense of the word.