Paolo Nutini turned up the heat at The Trocadero
I was fourteen the first time I heard the Scottish R&B songwriter Paolo Nutini’s first single “New Shoes,” and I thought it was stupid. It’s inarguably catchy, but I blame VH1’s “You Oughta Know” super-saturation of the song for making me hate it. However, I started listening to the rest of Nutini’s debut album, These Streets, (2006)and in a matter of minutes I was hooked. At 22, I’m still hooked.
If there was any doubt about Nutini’s ability to continue impressing a U.S. audience after his disappointing ’09 tour, critics need look no further than Saturday night’s show at The Trocadero. His 2014 release, Caustic Love, was a long-time coming, but it was well worth the wait. Nutini exuded blue-eyed soul like I’ve never seen (other than watching old videos of Rod Stewart and Jackson Browne). From the moment he walked onstage, the crowd melted into a big sweaty mass of adoration, hungry for every sweet note he’d dole out. To be fair, Nutini hasn’t toured the U.S. in five years, so when the Caustic Love tour was extended, many a swooning fan (myself included) took no risks with missing him this time.
One song after the other, Nutini treated the Philly audience to a show they won’t soon forget. He opened with an exhilarating delivery of “Scream (Funk My Life Up),” quickly setting the tone for the evening ahead. He soared through a few gospel-heavy songs from Caustic Love, including a particularly moving rendition of “Diana” with an eerie operatic transition into a very passionate “Cherry Blossom.” The room was eager for anything Nutini was willing to play, and he held nothing back in playing to the crowd’s fancies.
Nutini then took a dive into his past with fan favorite, “Jenny Don’t Be Hasty.” Instead of playing the beloved song like I’d heard so many times before though, he put a slightly psychedelic spin on the song’s opening. This was the first twist to his back catalogue as he continued playing—to the crowd’s delight, he moved right into a nod to “New Shoes” with a snappy chant of the chorus, but did not continue playing the rest of the song. This was the perfect dose for me, but I’m sure a few fans were disappointed not to hear the whole song.
Nutini also pulled out older hits “Pencil Full of Lead” (garnering a participatory audience chiming in with the “la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la’s”) and “No Other Way.” As he wrapped up an electrifying performance of “Iron Sky,” (which included the song’s excerpt of Charlie Chaplin’s big speech in “The Great Dictator”) Nutini hopped offstage while his band continued playing. It’s worth noting the lights during this show were amazing, and Nutini has mastered the ability to set the tone of a performance with just a silhouette and a microphone.
After a few moments, Nutini burst back onstage for a lengthy encore set purely curated for longtime fans. After playing “Tricks of the Trade,” he opened the floor for suggestions (though I suspect he knew which tunes would be requested). “I’d Rather Go Blind” was quickly followed up with “Candy,” which was his last performance with the full band. After the band exited, things loosened up and became much more intimate. An acoustic version of what sounded like a nod to Dougie MacLean’s “Caledonia” took a backseat to a short filthy diddy with a drinking song’s melody. I haven’t been able to find the song online anywhere but it can be filed under NSFW tunes. Finally, understandably, Nutini joked that that he wasn’t a “fucking jukebox,” (he’d already been playing for the better part of two hours) and ultimately closed the show with a somewhat plucky, sort of tropical sounding “Last Request.” A bit predictable but still exactly what I, alongside other concert-goers, was hoping to hear.
I’m not always one to embrace changes, but the variations Nutini added to his older songs were a testament to his growth as a musician while still respecting that the old favorites are important for fans to hear. As the crowd of sweaty faces made its way toward the exit, many a smile could be seen, more than satisfied with Nutini’s delivery.
Scream (Funk My Life Up)
Coming Up Easy
Let Me Down Easy
Looking for Something
Someone Like You
Jenny Don’t Be Hasty / New Shoes
Pencil Full of Lead
No Other Way
Tricks of the Trade
I’d Rather Go Blind
Caledonia (Dougie MacLean cover)