I’ve been a bit of a Paloma fan ever since I heard New York and yes, I have all her albums. I think I love her most when she acknowledges her influencers, who include Billie Holiday and Etta James. What a treat, then, to see her do just this tonight in her Symphonic Grace event with Guy Barker and his 42-piece orchestra, itself comprised of some utterly brilliant musicians, all of which have some serious credibility in film soundtracks and music leadership.
The first part of the concert had the orchestra rock the house with some proper 30’s jazz before giving the spotlight to two of Paloma’s gutsy backing singers: Naomi Miller not holding back in Preacher Man, and Sabrina Ramikie giving a soulful interpretation of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s Natural Woman, one of my all-time favourite songs. The opening set finished, following a hat-tip to Holiday and James, with a 5-song orchestral medley of Paloma’s most famous pieces and a rapturous appreciation from the packed house.
Paloma’s presentation in front of the orchestra started with her acknowledgement that we were enjoying “real” music: her signature humility is what sets her apart from many artists. That she puts the orchestra and her girls totally to the fore before taking the stage is testament to her groundedness. That said, she wore the most stunning frock (she said she had dressed up as the newly-refurbished Usher Hall), which she worked to full effect whenever she got the chance, in instrumental breaks, or when setting the most appropriate pose-for-effect as motif when she was singing.
The main set itself was outstanding – up to the usual Paloma standard – but I can’t help feeling that there was a trick missed here. Paloma’s ability to fill with soul some of the greater blues, swing and jazz classics might have been shown off a little in front of this band? I can’t complain. Like I said, I love her, and if that means joining in with the jumping crowd as she satisfies their craving for her big numbers, then I’m not going to suffer it.
My enjoyment of the evening wasn’t even dented when I got to the head of the 20-minute queue to pay through the other nostril for three hours of parking, having emptied the first on a G&T and Bloody Mary at interval. These are the small impediments that normally keep me well away from the Usher Hall, but the opportunity to see Paloma Faith in another of her adventures was one I wasn’t going to miss. I’m beginning to think there’s no place I won’t go to get a chance to see her: I’ve seen her at the Corn Exchange (which makes the Asda next door look like architecture), the Glasgow O2 (it’s in Glasgow, enough said) and now Morningside’s Usher Hall. Next? Well, if she repeats her exclusive Vienna acoustic set anywhere I can reach, you can bet I’ll swallow all of my venue standards to be there. The dream gig? I guess it would be at Jools Holland’s Jam House, with the guv’nor in residence.