Tonight is our first visit to the Iveagh Gardens, at least as a gig venue, and it really is magnificent. Apart from the inevitable spattering of Irish summer rain (an issue that the headliner deals with by eying the sky and shouting -let it pour’), this quiet corner of Dublin has been transformed into a festival-like spot complete with its own beer tent and even a high-end chocolate stand. The caliber of support is superb, too: Candi Staton is something of a living legend, and while her recent success might have a lot to do with a certain Florence Welch, back in the day she was a serious name in her own right. Unbelievably, she’s 67 now, but she performs like a teenager, with ample bubbling energy and an obvious love of what she does. That in itself is wonderful given that Candi started her career in 1953, and while it’s certainly true that her vocals are a touch weaker than at her peak, she’s still vivid and entertaining.
-Stand By Your Man’, -Young Hearts Run Free’ and the inevitable -You’ve Got The Love’ are all present and correct, alongside her thirty year old cover of the ever-infectious -Suspicious Minds’. Sure, it’s cheesy, but it’s delivered in such a lovable, committed way that it feels special nonetheless. Expect Candi to continue to perform into her 80s, especially if she can keep her impressive band together.
Paloma Faith‘s stage set up is every bit as extravagant as we’ve come to expect: a checked platform, mirrored tower and band in matching outfits to accompany the fashionable starlet, who’s strutting her stuff in a red platforms that she somehow still runs in, and a black dress that’s beyond a mere male’s description. The first thing that strikes us about Paloma is her voice. Soaring yet subtle, it’s not so much what comes out of Paloma’s mouth, but her ability to sing it with an astounding level of heart and emotion. When she sings about what she wants from men (a common topic), she contorts her face in mock anger. Through the darker moments, her lips seem the quiver, while the upbeat lines see Paloma burst into an emphatic smile.
She might be only one album into a career with potential oozing from every pore, but Paloma certainly doesn’t lack material, either. She might be filling out her set with covers by The Corgis (catchy), Billie Holiday (a little weak) and Etta James (stunning), but the old classics – if anything – fall a touch behind Paloma’s own material, which suits her down to the ground. She drops in pop-power-ballad -Stone Cold Sober’ early on, sweeping across the stage, before standing tall over the audience for -Romance Is Dead’, addressed to the occasional man amongst the predominantly female audience. It’s not the most original sentiment in the world, but Paloma’s hard not to love, especially when her imagination runs a little more wild in title track -Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful’ and the quirky -My Legs Are Weak’. Her Mohicaned guitarist flirts with her throughout at stage-front, adding his own colorful element.
It’s not perfect; -Stargazer’ for example, becomes little more than a drum solo after a sound failure, and b-side -Luv Ya’ is a touch irritating lyrically, but the reasons Paloma Faith has come so far in little more than a year – her debut single was released in June 2009 – is far from just marketing hype. She’s charismatic, vocally inspiring and eccentrically brilliant on stage, and while there’s plenty to suggest she’s still learning as well as a slight lack of material, it’s all very lovable. -New York’ – her biggest single by far – is not the stand out, but fairly typical of Paloma’s quality: this is a polished and highly promising performance.
Photos: James Goulden