Nutini bares his soul for fans
It’s rare in the modern music lexicon that “chart-topping” and “soulful” appear in the same sentence, but Scottish singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini is something of an exception.
It wasn’t always the case that he would be described as such, with his first album, These Streets, in 2006 providing the UK charts with several decidedly poppy hits that Nutini himself admits were not quite his cup of tea.
So it is refreshing to see a musician grow up and into his own sound, as Nutini has done with 2009’s Sunny Side Up and last year’s Caustic Love, both of which were commercial and developmental success stories.
Backed by a 10-piece band at Dubai Media City’s Amphitheatre on Friday, he opened with Scream (Funk My Life Up), singing hallelujah to the fact that, at 28, he’s now in a far better place musically than he was as a raw 19-year-old when he burst on to the scene.
Let Me Down Easy followed, giving the near sell-out crowd some insight into the soul sounds that have heavily influenced much of his recent work.
Coming Up Easy and Alloway Grove added an element of funk, giving the audience a sound to move to, before he showcased a Liam Gallagher-esque whine on Jenny Don’t Be Hasty, upping the tempo.
Singing in a distinctive Scottish accent with a sound that harks back to Motown’s heyday really shouldn’t work but somehow Nutini has the right mixture of soul, funk and swagger to pull it off.
His music reminds you of your parents having a party in an Artex-clad living room back in the day, and his lyrics are appealing as they yearn for the simple things in life: loving your family, settling down with the right girl and starting a family.
One Day had couples swaying before Pencil Full of Lead, in a tone entirely different from the album, turned the sway into a stomp.
Better Man and a few album fillers added up to a bit of a lull that could have been avoided with a setlist reshuffle, but a triumphant, trumpet-laden cover of MGMT’s Time to Pretend was as rich and moreish as salted caramel.
Candy added more sweetness for the lovebirds in the audience before he finished up with – what else? – Last Request.
For the uninitiated, it may have felt like a long night, with Nutini offering perhaps more than he should have, but fans were left baying for more.
After reaching a stage in his career where he is producing music more attuned to his personal preferences, it will be interesting to see how this young man with an old, worldly wise soul develops his sound on his fourth album.
He made fans wait five years between his second and third but, as he has clearly matured into the artist he wants to be, it’s unlikely such a sabbatical will be repeated – which is good news for those with a love of Detroit’s finest record label.
Updated: April 11, 2015 04:00 AM