New Year’s eve 2014/2015, I was watching Jools Holland Hootenanny, like I do every year. I had checked the artist line up in advance and among artists like Ed Sheeran, Joss Stone, Ellie Goulding, Bozz Scaggs, Ronnie Spector, Jess Glynne and Paloma Faith, I saw that Paolo Nutini was announced. Somehow this made me happy and very much interested. Of course I knew Paolo from his songs Last Request, New Shoes and Jenny Don’t Be Hasty. These songs were played on the Dutch radio stations in the past years, but I must admit I did not pay much attention to Paolo Nutini until his 3rd album Caustic Love was released in April 2014. I recall there was much to do about the release of Caustic Love. It seemed that Paolo had been off the radar for almost 5 years and now he had his big “come back”. In media, everybody was excited about a great album, full of Soul, Funk and Jazz elements Paolo had delivered and that it was his best album up to now. As I wanted to hear what everybody was talking about, I listened to the song previews on iTunes and when I heard only a small piece of Iron Sky for the first time, I was completely struck! The song went straight to my heart and it brought tears to my eyes. I downloaded Iron Sky, initially, as the only song of the album and I kept on playing it during the rest of 2014 as one of my favorite songs. Scream and Let me down Easy were released as singles from Caustic Love. I heard them on the radio regularly, but they did not become real hits in the Netherlands. I started to look for information about Paolo on the internet because I wanted to know more about the singer/songwriter behind this spectacular song “Iron Sky”. I realized I even didn’t know what he looked like. Of course I was pleasantly surprised when I started to look at Paolo’s pictures. I saw a very handsome young man and it was obvious to me “the camera loves him”. I read he also had a significant female fan base, which I immediately understood. I had not realized he was only 27 years old, because he sounded considerably older than that. He was born in Scotland with Italian roots and he was the son of a Fish & Chip Shop owner’s couple in Paisley, Scotland. His father had always hoped Paolo would take over the family restaurant one day, but that was not likely since he already had a career in the music industry. Great to know, but at that time I wasn’t triggered to give it any further attention. I just continued to play Iron Sky.
Back to Jools Holland Hootenanny 2014/2015. Paolo was announced by Jools Holland and I looked at this young man, simply dressed in a jeans, white shirt and his tousled hair covered his eyes. He started to sing and I realized I saw him in motion for the first time. For me it was a shame I could hardly see his eyes through his hair, but apart from that I was completely blown away by his great voice, his perfect live performance and his sexy appearance. I immediately noticed he had something special and that he was somebody who stands out from the crowds. The passion and emotion he was putting into his performance was heartfelt and I instantly fell in love….
The days after I couldn’t forget about Paolo’s performance at Jools Holland, so I started to look for videos from concerts and other performances on YouTube. I was happy to see there was much available and I started to watch Pinkpop 2014, Glastonbury 2014, the Radio KCRW (USA) performance and the ONE Agit 8 campaign, were Paolo did “Freedom” from Richie Havens, which was famous from the Woodstock festival. Personally I thought you really must know what you are doing, when you cover a song like that, but he got away with it extremely well. It was now completely clear to me how musical, talented and versatile Paolo is. Unbelievable I had not discovered this great artist before, the way I just did.
Early January, the Live River Sessions in the Musical Institute of Detroit came online on YouTube, where Paolo did 5 songs in an acoustic setting. Looking for Something, Inner City Blues (Sixto Rodriquez cover), Coming up Easy, Cupid (Sam Cooke cover) and Last Request. A real “showcase performance”, I couldn’t stop watching and again it displayed his musicality, his unadorned simplicity and perfectionism!
I read about Adele’s tweet, were she said that Paolo’s Abbey Road session version of Iron Sky was one of the best things she had ever seen! “It was very kind of her to do so. Everybody was talking about it. It seems when the lady speaks, everybody listens…” Paolo said in a radio interview, when he was asked what he thought about Adele’s tweet. He said it in a very modest way though as if he hardly could believe it himself.
I read in gig reviews of the four rescheduled 2014 shows (to the first two weeks of January 2015), that seeing Paolo live in concert was something special and a real “must see”!
After having seen all those great things on YouTube, I could imagine that it would indeed be great to see Paolo live and very soon I was determined to go to one of his concerts. Preferably, as soon as possible. I started to look at the options and I checked Paolo’s website on a regular basis to see if there were gigs scheduled in the Netherlands. I knew he had been playing on the Pinkpop Festival in June 2014 and I read he had done a show in the Heineken Music Hall 20 November 2014. (“damned, I just had missed that one”!) As there were no new shows scheduled in the Netherlands yet, I started to look at other options outside of the Netherlands. There were some festivals scheduled like the Isle of Wight festival, but it was a very time-consuming trip to get there, the Open Air St. Gallen festival in Switzerland, but you had to subscribe for the festival in advance and booking tickets was not an option anymore and there were several shows planned in Australia and New Zealand, but this was really a bridge too far. There was no other way than waiting for new possibilities.
On 9 January 2015, just after I had “discovered” him, there was suddenly a lot of attention for Paolo in the Netherlands when Iron Sky was chosen to radio 3FM Megahit. The megahit is a song, selected by all the DJ’s of Dutch radio station 3FM and this song is played in every show, so it has high rotation for one whole week. Initially they had chosen “The book of Love” from Gavin James for the week of 12 – 18 January, but on Wednesday 7 January the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris happened. Due to this situation, they now thought that Iron Sky was the perfect song to display the situation in the world at that moment, so that’s why they preferred it over “The book of love”. On Monday 12 January, I was driving to work, listening to the radio and when I had already parked my car at office, it appeared that DJ Giel Beelen, presenter of the daily morning show, had made a Dutch translation from the song text of Iron Sky. Of course I stayed in my car to listen, while Giel started to read the translation before he would play Iron Sky. Near the end of the translation, he wasn’t able to read the text properly anymore and he got very emotional about everything that had happened in Paris, in combination with this beautiful and relevant song. I also had to dry my own tears, before I walked inside the office.
At the end of that same week DJ’s Coen and Sander from the afternoon show on 3FM (before they transferred over to Radio538), announced that they had been in contact with Paolo and that he would come to the “Coen and Sander show” to do an interview and he would play Iron Sky live in the radio studio. The visit was due for some time in the coming weeks. This was great news and I closely watched the 3FM website to see if there was any news when Paolo would come.
Then one morning on 22 January, I was checking Paolo’s website and I saw there was a concert scheduled in the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. I immediately felt the excitement of the chance to see Paolo performing at this great outside event, where the weather would be nice and warm. Before I knew I had booked two Golden Circle tickets, in front of the stage. Yes, I wanted to see him as close as possible, with all the emotion seen on his face directly and not just from a big screen. I was so happy I was in the possession of two tickets, but now the next hurdle came. I whatsapped my husband and asked him: “Honey, what do think about a long weekend Dubai in the weekend of 10 – 13 April?” “That sounds great”, he responded. Me again: “and by the way, we can also attend a Paolo Nutini concert while we are there, what do you think?” What I did not immediately tell him is that I already booked the tickets. Fortunately he responded very enthusiastic. I called him and shared with him straightaway that I already had booked the tickets and he started to laugh about my quick actions. Awesome! Now I was able to start looking forward to this great event and I was grateful that my dear husband was willing to come with me. It is OK for him and he does enjoy things like these, but for him it is not a must. He just likes to see me happy and therefore I think it’s very cute of him to do so.
A few days after, on 27 January, it was announced that Paolo would do a gig on the North Sea Jazz festival on 11 July in Rotterdam. “Sh*t”! I thought, this happens just now we have booked tickets far away in Dubai! On the other hand, we were not able to go to North Sea Jazz anyway, since we would be on holiday during the first two weeks of July. If I was lucky I would be able to see some pictures and video’s of Paolo’s North Sea Jazz gig on the internet and social media to get a bit of the atmosphere, so in the end it was not a real disappointment.
On 5 February it was finally announced on the 3FM website that Paolo would come to the Coen and Sander show the next day. On Friday afternoon Paolo did a brilliant performance of Iron Sky and One day live in the studio and there was a brief interview in which he explained his meaning by writing “Iron Sky”. The interview was rather hilarious, mainly due to Sander Lantinga. Sander offered Paolo some salted herring, a typical Dutch “specialty” you either love or hate, but he kindly refused. Sander though, started to eat some herring himself and he almost choked in it and things became all messy and funny. At the end of the interview both Coen and Sander said they had no clue what Paolo had told them, because they had not been able to understand him. While it was all streamed live on the internet, I saw that Paolo had a complete new look. His hair was much shorter now, so I was able to see his pretty eyes very well this time.
On Friday night that same day, Paolo was also the musical guest in talkshow RTL Late Night with TV host Humberto Tan, where he did “Iron Sky” and “One day” again. This was really my day and I felt a very lucky girl!
After almost two months, with no further updates on Paolo, he started touring again on 18 March in Cape-town and Johannesburg, South Africa. After this, he would head to Australia and New Zealand and then finally come to Dubai. I followed Paolo’s tour with great interest and much delight on the Internet and social media, checking reviews, interviews, radio performances, pictures and videos from other fans. Fortunately my “waiting” was almost over….
Below an interview with an Australian “Rolling Stone” reporter who is asking Paolo about 5 touring essentials. Paolo answers that taking his band with him is one essential which always helps, but he doesn’t know any further about touring essentials. However, he does know what NOT to take with him on tour. He than quotes Scottish comedian Billy Connolly who once was told by an Irish taxi driver: “Never take an eejit (idiot) with you, you can always pick one up when you get there”. Apparently the reporter doesn’t completely understand what Paolo says. You hear him laugh a little, but you notice he doesn’t know exactly what Paolo means, which I think is very funny. Paolo further speaks about his admiration for one of his own great musical inspirers, Sixto Rodriquez and how he met him for the first time, when Sixto Rodriquez was backstage during a show in Australia in 2007 and that this was one of the best days of his life.
In the 2nd, 11 minutes interview, Paolo speaks about not doing any social media himself. He has these Twitter and other social media accounts, but other people manage them. He said it would open some kind of Pandora’s box and it would be “a slippery slope” if he started to say things on twitter. A shame in a way, because I’m certainly curious what kind of things he would say and what is on his mind. He also says he preferred the time when it was still difficult to find anything at all about an artist you liked, because that way this artist kept on being much more mysterious and interesting. However, he admitted that social media and internet could also be beneficial for him, if you keep seeing it for what it is, but he doesn’t want to capitalize on it. I understand what Paolo says here, but I must admit I’m happy there are so may good things available these days on the internet and on social media. It’s lovely to see what fans are sharing with each other for example. The fact that Paolo doesn’t want to capitalize on things like social media platforms, because he doesn’t want to squeeze everything out of it, is very much to appreciate. He says he just wants to make a record and tour the record and the fact that there are four different versions of one song is just as effective according to him. Lastly he speaks about his 5 years break from the music industry and what kept him busy during this time.
PAOLO in Dubai
On Thursday evening 9 April we took the plane to Dubai. I felt like a child on the night before Christmas and I was very nervous. Are we able to get a good spot in the Media City Amphiheatre? Will the concert meet the big expectations I have. I was not able to sleep much during the flight and I killed time to watch a complete TV series on the inflight entertainment. It was a long night, but I felt extremely happy…
Friday 10 April, FINALLY THE DAY! In the afternoon we went to the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, which is situated in a small park near the coast and the marina, surrounded by big skyscrapers. The place became a bit surreal and fairytale-like when it got dark and the lights went on, very impressive! Before we were able to go inside, we had to wait a long time, but the people and the atmosphere were great, so we didn’t mind the waiting. The audience was very international and it was a mix of young and old. Apparently also a lot of expats from the UK were attending. When we finally were able to go inside, we entered the Golden circle and it was still rather quiet, so we immediately walked to the fences near the stage! We were at FRONT ROW!! Almost in the middle. I hardly believed it and I couldn’t be happier. This was a good start and I was not willing to give up this spot anymore. Before Paolo came on stage, there were two support acts. A Scottish singer/comedian, whom I did not know, kicked off. He had a song about abandoned shopping carts at big shopping malls and that was quite funny. After that, the Corona’s from Ireland started their show. They weren’t that bad, although at one point I thought all their songs sounded the same. The Corona’s ended their gig and the roadies came to the stage to rebuilt it for Paolo. I had to smile when I saw small Persian carpets which were put on stage for Paolo and several Vipers to stand on, but I had to admit that it suits Paolo and the whole image around him. When the roadies had finished, everything went dark, “the Bus Talk Interlude” from Caustic Love started to play, the band came on stage and in less than one minute later… there he was, MY MAIN MAN!! Short haired, nice tan, simple white t-shirt and jeans. He looked as if he was “the next James Dean”. I had to pinch myself and sighed….
PAOLO NUTINI, photocredits: Jeffrey Pabroquez, http://www.jeffreypabroquez.com
This was the moment I had been waiting for. Paolo and his fantastic, 10 piece band the amazing Vipers, played a little over two hours. I let myself completely go and I sung, danced and screamed like I was 18 again and I didn’t care. I think my husband had never seen me like this before. All the stress from work the last couple of months before…. I let it all out.
PAOLO NUTINI, Photo credits: Hyku Desesto, http://www.facebook.com/hykudphotography
Below the setlist from the concert with my own comments:
- Bus Talk and Scream (Funk My Life Up) – The Bus Talk Interlude (which contains a sample a of “Stop! In the Name of Love” as performed by Margie Joseph, and of “Giving Up” by Gladys Knight & The Pips) is a brilliant creation and Scream is the perfect opening song to get the party started. It’s funky, sexy and seductive with a great rhythm, baseline and horns.
- Let Me Down Easy – Great version of this song by Paolo, with the sample of Bettye LaVette.
- Coming Up Easy – Started with a great gospel-like intro when Paolo started to sing: “Raise your hands if you know where you belong”. I first though it was a new song when Paolo started to sing it, because these lines were apparently a new addition to the song. The end of this song has also changed over the years and the following lines are added: “I would rather die dreaming believing in something that’s bigger than me, I would rather go caring, working for something that makes me feel alive”. When you see him singing it, you really believe him. It’s such a great song! I have seen on several pictures on social media that the original end lines of Coming up easy “It was in love I was created and in love is how I hope I die” are often used as a tattoo.
- Alloway Grove – I like this song, because it’s so nice to sing along with it and it makes you feel very happy
- Jenny Don’t Be Hasty / New Shoes – Jenny Don’t Be Hasty has been given a new “rock sound” and it mashed up with “New Shoes”. It was funny to see when Paolo was looking for the response of the audience when at the end of Jenny he started to sing “And what did I do? I did the only thing I could have done…. He waited a few seconds for a response, pulled a funny face and then he repeated “It was the only thing I could have done…. I put my new shoes on and everything was alright…!” And then, of course, everybody started to laugh and to cheer by surprise.
- Looking for Something – Great song about Paolo’s mum and what she means to him. It was nice to see that both Paolo’s parents were standing on the side of the stage. They must be really proud when they see him performing and realizing how loved and admired their son is! This song is also one of my favorites from Caustic love.
- Growing up besides you – This song was not on the original set list of Dubai, but I especially remembered this song because the close harmony singing of Paolo together with Dave Nelson (guitar and vocals) and Janet Ramus (background singer) was so beautiful! Originally Numpty was mentioned on the set list, but I can’t remember he did that one in Dubai. I’m also pretty sure that Paolo did Northern Skies (I think for his fellow Scots who were present at the concert) but unfortunately I can’t remember anymore at which moment during the concert this was exactly.
- Better Man – For me he can’t be any better man than this and the sound of the “Ah, ah, la la la” piece in this song always reminds me of “Sailing” by Rod Stewart in some way.
- These Streets – The audience was visibly happy when Paolo started to sing this song about home from his “early days” and it made me happy as well as it’s a lovely song.
- Diana – I’m amazed sometimes about Paolo’s vocal range. He sings so high in this song, but it was spot on and never out of tune in the live version, while he is also having this gravelly, raspy voice. Absolutely great to hear!
- One Day – I didn’t want to think at this point, Paolo would be “Gone (for a while)” when the show would end. Also great contribution of background singer Janet Ramus, who is an awesome and powerful singer (known from the Shapeshifters – Lola’s theme). You can say the same about her contribution in Iron Sky.
- Cherry Blossom – Rock ’n roll, flash lights and very energetic!
- Pencil Full of Lead – The sound of this song has changed dramatically and I think it’s great. For me the album version sounded a bit like a Disney/Jungle Book song. Not bad and funny, if you are in to that style, but I prefer the version Paolo does in concert now. The party totally got started at this point during the show and I went completely through the roof myself.
- No Other Way – “I work my days for you, because I love you, girl I don’t want you, I need you!” I think a lot of women would hope their man would say these words to them! This song is also one of my absolute favorites!
- Iron Sky – Awesome and it made me cry again to hear and see it live! According to me this song is Paolo’s masterpiece. At least up till now, because we never know what he’ll come up with next.
Photocredits: @Helen Boast, http://www.helenboastphotography.com
- The encore starts with: Tricks of the Trade – Beauty, simplicity and it goes straight to the heart.
- Time to Pretend (MGMT cover) – great version of this song from Paolo with Gavin Fitzjohn playing great on the trumpet. It must be a song close to Paolo’s heart as I know he has been playing it for quite some years live in concert now.
- Candy – A classic Paolo song and a crowd pleaser! The end of Candy was phenomenal!
- Someone Like You – Sweet romantic song as if it was written some decades ago.
- Last Request – Paolo was still the only one on stage with his acoustic guitar after the audience and himself had thanked the band. Some reviews from Dubai were saying that it was disappointing that Last Request was almost unrecognisable in this acoustic version and that Paolo let the audience sing the song themselves. I don’t agree with this at all. Last Request is 10 years old and it has developed through the years, with additions to the text (“What would you do, before it all falls down”) and an alternative sound. I think it was a great and touching version Paolo did here! When Last Request had ended Paolo thanked the audience by applauding for us himself. He said he loved us and blew a big kiss in the microphone which was absolutely adorable!! He than left the stage…
PAOLO NUTINI, Photo credits: Hyku Desesto, http://www.facebook.com/hykudphotography
Below three reviews of Paolo’s Dubai gig
Photocredits: @Helen Boast, http://www.helenboastphotography.com
Personally I regret that Paolo did not have more (visible) interaction with his great band during the show, but he came across very passionate and focused on his music. I think that’s why you often see him singing with his eyes closed. At some point during the concert I saw he is a real perfectionist. I did not hear it, but apparently there was something wrong with the sound. He looked aside and although he tried to hide it from the audience, I clearly saw him looking angry and shouting “f*ck” to his soundman. Paolo did not speak that much with the audience in between the songs and when he spoke it was not always easy to understand. I think how he was presenting himself, he was just the guy he is and he didn’t forced himself to be any different. Simplicity and being himself is what I like so much about him and in the end it is all about the music and it was more than clear that Paolo wanted to deliver a perfect show! Besides this, a Paolo Nutini concert is an awesome treat to watch, with the all the beautiful colors and the light show. There were no background visuals in Dubai, something which Paolo’s concerts are also famous for. Probably this was not possible from a technical/logistics perspective, but the multicolored stage curtain that was used in Dubai is also beautiful to watch and a real artwork.
PAOLO NUTINI, Photo credits: Hyku Desesto, http://www.facebook.com/hykudphotography
So this was what I had been looking out for so much for the past three months and it was everything I had hoped for and more! I was so glad I had been able to experience this amazing live concert of Paolo, I was so determined to go to, but I was also a bit sad it was over. I immediately felt I needed to see more from Paolo and his The Vipers. The next day I was still in a trance and I was reminiscing about everything that had happened the night before, but I was also thinking about a possible next concert to attend and I looked at Paolo’s remaining scheduled tour dates. When I started to discuss it, my husband raised his eyebrows and he sighed very deep once, but before we left Dubai on Monday, we had booked tickets for Piknik i Parken in Oslo, where Paolo was the headliner on Friday evening 26 June! On the flight back home I thought I was a spoiled brat, but at the same time I felt thankful, blessed and excited that we were able to experience such great things, which make life just more fun! For the 2nd time in four months I was able to look forward to a Paolo Nutini concert. I was definitely addicted!
Photocredits: Front Page Picture: Jeffrey Pabroquez, http://www.jeffreypabroquez.com
Many thanks to Jeffrey Pabroquez, Hyku Desesto and Helen Boast for being so kind to let me use their great pictures of Paolo’s concert in Dubai!