Music review: Paloma Faith, O2 Academy, Leeds

Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Picture: Anthony Longstaff

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IF quirkiness could be bottled and sold, Miss Paloma Faith would no doubt be a major wholesale supplier.

Outside- the-box attitude and sassiness are the London singer’s trademarks, and ahead of her gig at the O2 Academy in Leeds I was hoping for magnums full of it.

I first saw Paloma perform at the Big Chill summer festival several years ago, when she was an up-and-coming artist. The kookiness-factor and ballsy attitude were already on a high setting, and the raw talent was obvious.

Three albums and several major awards later, she is established as one of Britain’s foremost female singers, a major player in a formidable pack of new-generation Brit divas.

Strutting onto the Leeds O2 stage with a baggy gold blouse, leather skirt, big coiffured hair and step-perfect dance , I thought for a moment she was channelling Kylie, rather than the Amy Winehouse/Adele hybrid I have always regarded her as musically. Had the quirkiness been diluted in tandem with her mainstream success I wondered?

But when the big entrance was done, and that unmistakable voice took over, there was no need to worry.

The show was dominated with songs from Faith’s third studio album, A Perfect Contradiction, an extended deluxe version of which is set to release before Christmas.

Raw, real, powerfully prosaic lyrics are a hallmark of her songs, and the latest collection continues in that vein.

However there’s an inevitable increased maturity in the lyrics, and in the voice, which is a pleasant mix of perky maverick and soulful diva.

From the upbeat big band joys of Upside Down, to the tender insecurity of Picking Up The Pieces, to the Motown-y heartbreak of Only Love Can Hurt Like This, her voice is - for the most part - rich and velvety.

However it’s by no means perfect and there are occasional hiccups in the vocals.

Honesty is also another Paloma hallmark and when she struggles with her voice at some points, she tells the audience this is her third show in a row and she is tired, asking the paying public to bear with her.

And they certainly do.

It’s stuffy and hot in the venue, which is packed to the rafters, but Paloma keeps her cool.

Interspersing the songs with anecdotes, album plugs and memories of her brief stay in Roundhay in her teens, where she hated dance school but loved working in legendary bars like Mylo and BRB, she has the crowd eating out of her hands.

She delights in telling us about her upcoming debut arena tour in 2015 and promises to return to Leeds with a bang, and to play more songs from her earlier albums.

See you next year Paloma. We’re keeping the Faith.

Emeli Sande at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

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