“I can see a lot of handsome men, a lot of pretty ladies.” Paolo Nutini is on the charm offensive. Playing his first run of shows in two years to support the release of his recent third full length album, Caustic Love, the Paisley-born songwriter darts onstage and into its opener Scream (Funk Your Life Up). Accompanied by an eight-strong backing band (The Vipers, which includes saxophone, trumpet and backing vocals in addition to the usual setup), Nutini makes a mischievous yet unassuming figure at its head leading the sold out room through three albums of his Dylan and Van Morrison-inspired, Otis Reading funked up hits. An almost schizophrenic repertoire between sunshine and darkness, it’s a delicately balanced performance.
“Anyone here with their mother tonight? This song is about my mother,” says Nutini before sliding easily into Looking For Something – you couldn’t accuse him of not knowing his audience. The set is weighted towards the new album with Diana, Cherry Blossom and the Charlie Chaplin-beginning Iron Sky the most impressive, but these are interspersed with No Other Way, the cover of Chvrches’ Recover which has become a staple in the singer’s set and a refreshed Pencil Full Of Lead, a cheerful ditty from Nutini’s second album which before skipped along merrily and now walks with purpose. The 27 year old has been accused of lacking stage presence and aspects of performance, but watch him around the release of his debut album, 2006’s These Streets, and boy can you see the progression. Four setting suns rise after the encore for Jenny Don’t Be Hasty; a red constructivist target background with Nutini cutting a powerful sway in the middle; ‘You said you’d marry me if I was 23, but I’m one that you can’t see for I’m only 18’ now a ringing look-what-you-missed which blurs into an epiphat of New Shoes. Funky Cigarette, Candy and Last Request end the two hour solid repertoire which has taken Nutini’s folk and blues foundations and blended with soul, reggae, funk and ska to create something spectacularly more interesting than Damien Rice and James Morrison – his contemporaries when he first emerged. Make no bones about it, he’s a way to go before he’s Bob Dylan but tonight the son of the fish and chip shop owner from a village in Scotland, well he’s the boldest Paolo Nutini we’ve seen yet.
Photos: Andy Watson