Paolo Nutini – Powerstation

DSC_2659Paolo Nutini is on a roll. The Scottish singer with the Italian name has been picking up momentum ever since the release of his first album, nine years ago. Now that momentum has brought him to Auckland where he is playing two sold-out shows at The Powerstation.

The first of those two shows took place on Easter Monday. And sure enough, the place was packed…mostly with female fans who were attracted to his boyish good looks as much as his soulful music…but there was a good showing from the men as well, one of whom yelled for the singer to “Take your shirt off!” during the encore.

There was to be none of that…Paolo’s mother was in the audience after all…but there was plenty of emotionally-charged pleading and crooning as Nutini and his nine-person band charged through twenty songs in just under two hours.

The lights came down at precisely 9:30pm with the sped-up pre-recorded vocal of Bus Talk (Interlude) playing back while the musicians took their places.

The live music then began with Scream (Funk My Life Up) from Paolo’s latest album, Caustic Love. Nutini sounded in fine form, almost rapping the lyrics as the horn section provided soulful punctuation and the audience sang along.

This was followed by another pre-recorded snippet of music. This time it was Bettye LaVette’s 1965 Northern Soul classic, Let Me Down Easy. Bettye fades out after a few seconds and Paolo and his band pick up the vibe wit5h his own Let Me Down Easy, also from Caustic Love.

In all, Nutini played most of his latest album (10 songs in all) along with a healthy portion from the two previous, 2006’s These Streets and 2009’s Sunny Side Up.

Paolo’s singing seemed to pick up urgency as passion as the evening progressed, culminating with the simmering r&b ballad Someone Like You which found the 28-year-old seemingly channelling the spirit of Otis Redding, while the band faithfully recreated the sound of Memphis’ Stax Records from their glory days on the mid-60s.

Along the way Paolo dedicated Looking For Something to his mother, who he said was in the house and he serenaded his fans solo with These Streets. One Day brought the singer to his knees as backing singer Janet Ramus sang a siren-like solo.

A big, brassy Cherry Blossom came with strobing lights and elicited screams of delight from the fans.

A shoe was thrown (carefully and without malice) to the singer after New Shoes and was tossed back to the owner later during Candy.

Paolo interacted quite a bit with the audience but his soft-spoken manner and, perhaps his accent, made it difficult to make out what he was saying if you weren’t directly up front.

The sound was a bit boomy, but either I got used to it or it improved as the night went on.

The band consisted of three horn players, Gavin Fitzjohn (sax & trumpet), Ben Edwards (trumpet), Tom Pinder (trombone), two guitarists, Donny Little and Dave Nelson, plus bassist Michael McDaid, drummer Jay Sikora, keyboard player John Tilley and backing vocalist Janet Ramus. Paolo played a bit of guitar and keyboards himself throughout the set.

The set wrapped up with Iron Sky, one of the more powerful tracks from Caustic Love and one that features a sample of Charlie Chaplin’s speech from his film The Great Dictator, telling the masses, “You are not machines”.

With the Scottish flag being held aloft by fans, Nutini returned for an encore that found him singing Tricks Of The Trade accompanying himself on acoustic guitar with just two of his bandmates helping out.

The entire band returned for the rousing Time To Pretend, a cover of MGMT’s tune and a huge cheer went up as they launched into Candy, from Sunny Side Up.

Eventually Paolo was left alone on the stage to close the evening with Last Request, wrapping up the evening with a beautiful swooping falsetto.

For anyone who may have had any doubts….and there were few in the house tonight…Paolo Nutini he is the real deal, a passionate vocalist and a powerful entertainer. His sound may not be original, but who can get enough of that sweet soul music?

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn:

Paolo Nutini set list:

  1. Bus Talk (Interlude)
  2. Scream (Funk My Life Up)
  3. Let Me Down Easy
  4. Coming Up Easy
  5. Alloway Grove
  6. Jenny Don’t Be Hasty/New Shoes
  7. Looking For Something
  8. Better Man
  9. These Streets
  10. Diana
  11. One Day
  12. Cherry Blossom
  13. Pencil Full Of Lead
  14. No Other Way
  15. Iron Sky
  16. Tricks Of The Trade
  17. Time To Pretend
  18. Candy
  19. Someone Like You
  20. Last Request