Fresh from her dramatic performance and Best Female Solo Artist win at the Brit Awards, kooky songstress Paloma Faith made her Australian debut at the iconic Palais Theatre in Melbourne this week.
She brought South East London soul singer Joel Culpepper with her to warm up the cold crowd, but he struggled with many favouring the foyer so early on in the night. A pitch-perfect rendition of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ went down fairly well, however Culpepper’s own tracks fell flat. He did get a giggle when he mentioned the title of his forthcoming EP Tortoise however, saying “I move very slow but I’m getting there”.
Bang on 8:30pm the lights dimmed and the atmosphere was buzzing. Faith’s band appeared, Jersey Boy-esque in gold sparkly blazers and black trousers, taking their staggered positions around the stage. Two guitarists, a drummer, a pianist and a female bassist with hair a la Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.
Then she appeared – bouncy and smiling – with a blonde wig of dreadlocks and bare feet. Women whooped and men clapped, rather embarrassing, before we realised what was going on. It wasn’t Paloma Faith at all, it was her back-up singer, because the star herself was creeping in from the side of stage.
The sultry songbird and actress Beyonce-walked onto the stage to a rapturous applause, in a stunning, leather Natalia Kaut ensemble, complete with fluffy matching burgundy coat. Her signature retro hair was blonde and her fringe fashioned into a 50s inspired up-do, that beautiful toothy smile on full display between scarlet-red lips.
She opened with her dance track ‘Changing’, (from the recently released A Perfect Contradiction: Outsiders’ Edition) a sassy recent chart-topping collaboration with Sigma. That distinctive, black soul woman voice erupted over a barrage of jazzy band beats, and everyone knew instinctively and instantly that they were in for a good night of musical extravagance. “Hello Melbourne, how glorious you all look,” Faith declared in her adorable Hackney accent. “I’ve done three albums and it has taken me that long to get here and meet you but I am so happy we are here now.”
The eccentric songstress’ 15-song, 90-minute set was nothing short of incredible. Faith and co. powered through crowd favourites ‘Love Only Leaves You Lonely‘, ‘Other Woman’, ‘Beauty Remains’, and an intimate performance of ‘Take Me’. She took a walk down The Palais isles through a sea of mobile phones, her voice only stronger and edgier on the move as she mingled with fans.
If you weren’t on your feet already, then ‘Ready For The Good Life’ and ‘Trouble With My Baby’ got you up and about. The former hints at pop-star antics, supported by swelling vocal backing and a funky beat. The latter makes excellent use of Paloma’s incredibly soulful pipes, and live, she smashed it, and jazzy drum and piano sections were hammered out by her enthusiastic band.
Things heated up when the pint-sized performer drew on her theatrical Burlesque days, posing stylistically between lyrics and dancing dangerously atop the grand piano, urging the crowd to get up and dance with her – “when it gets to that inevitable crescendo”. Those wanting to boogey in their seats were assured by Faith that “there isn’t much security around and if there was, that’s nothing the crowd cannot outnumber.”
The highlight of the night came from a dance-tastic cover of ‘River Deep – Mountain High’ by Ike & Tina Turner. In tandem with her frivolous back-up singer, Faith unleashed a Turner-inspired choreography in the song’s middle, go-go dancing it up and butt-wiggling it to the funky breakdown interlude. Forget Miley Cyrus and twerking, THAT is how you dance with skill, class and charisma.
Mainly promoting her latest and greatest album, A Perfect Contradiction, Faith did give a little nod to her second LP Fall to Grace (2012), which was certified double platinum: “You can probably pick up my other albums at a petrol station for a dollar,” the 33-year-old chuckled. “Those songs are dead to me!”, however the hit ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ was played.
As only dancing in high heels would do, Paloma took a stumble mid-song – a mishap reminiscent of Madonna at the recent Brit Awards, as Faith quickly pointed out. Like a true professional, some people didn’t even notice, and although a limp dampened her dance moves, Faith returned for her encore, lead by the powerhouse hit ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’ – her first #1 single in Australia.
She peppered her performances with candid and comedic observations, strolling the stage and clearly in her element. Despite jet-lag, Faith’s voice was a force to be reckoned with – you’d never know she’d just stepped off a 17 hour flight the night before – and her energy and enthusiasm was even more so.
The born entertainer finished on a high with ‘Can’t Rely On You’, and the crowd chanted for more. Promising to sign merchandise after the show – and she did, even with her leg iced! – Faith had likability in spades and didn’t disappoint her adoring, long-time Melbourne fans.
She’s sexy, stylish and sassy, and although she doesn’t bring in the numbers quite like her counterparts do (Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Adele), musically and personally, Paloma Faith runs rings around her competition by keeping it real.
A Perfect Contradiction: Outsiders’ Edition is out now via Sony Music Entertainment.