Paloma Faith - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Tue 29 Oct 2013
A jazz-flecked set and 42-piece orchestra backing makes the pop performance soar
Of all her contemporaries (Winehouse, Adele, Sandé, etc) Paloma Faith’s vocals were always the most rooted in the classic big band era, which makes this large scale tour, backed by the 42-piece Guy Barker Orchestra, such a natural fit. Without the distraction of modern electronic production on most tracks she soars. Dressed all in red – a demure outfit to suit the occasion, compared to her often outlandish attire – dancing and pirouetting across the stage in slo-mo, the huge swell of the sweeping strings adding so much class, her big, belting delivery backed by a glorious wall of sound. Her vocals do take on brassy, Marge Simpson quality at times however she’s such a warm, funny and charismatic performer that even with over 40 incredible musicians, you only have eyes for her. There’s a selection of classic jazz/blues covers (including Nina Simone, Bettye LaVette and Keely Smith) that sound great but Faith doesn’t make them her own – they're more posh karaoke homages to her inspirations than genuine reinterpretations. However Barker’s arrangements of Faith’s own music really shine: ‘Just Be’ is heartbreaking, the jazz-goes-disco of ‘Blood Sweat & Tears’ had the audience on their feet while ‘Picking up the Pieces’ proved how great a retro pop song it really is.