By Claire Garber
I love Paulo Nutini. I have loved him since 2006 when I first heard him sing ‘Last Request’. That was nine months BEFORE I saw his face (2007) and heard ‘Jenny Don’t be Hasty’ (also 2007) which was in my mind the song when Paulo confirmed he would consider me as a girlfriend, despite our ten-year age difference. Fast forward to July 9th, 2015, Montreux, I still hadn’t met, dated or even seen him sing live. So. in all honesty he could have come on stage and done a little fart and I would have applauded until my palms hurt and my face was bright sweaty red.
But as I type this, the morning after the night before, the evening wasn’t quite what I had been expecting.
Firstly my obsession of Paulo’s looks overshadowed my appreciation of his talents. Because Paulo Nutini can really sing. He has a voice I can’t match to his age; a vocal tone similar to that of Otis Reading. In fact he has been dubbed the greatest soul singer to ever come out of our beloved UK, and I think it’s a deserved accolade. Secondly, Paulo Nutini can play the guitar. In fact he can play more than just the guitar. He plays the piano, he writes his own music and the crew on his tour bus told me he chooses to travel alone, always with a notebook in hand, constantly writing lyrics, keeping himself to himself. Music, it seems, is his life.
At the Montreux Jazz Festival Paolo Nutini looked at home. As the lead act on the main stage of the Stravinski Auditorium, it was the busiest I had seen it all week. As he started his set there was a hint of Amy Winehouse about him, the juxtaposition of a soulful depth in such a young body.
Most surprising to me, as he worked his way through a mixture of current and past tracks, was that after about 30 minutes of his set, I totally lost interest. He started a rendition of Jenny Don’t be Hasty, but unlike Mary J Blige, didn’t keep to the original track, delivering an impressive but slowed down version that made me think perhaps our age difference did now matter. It was at this point I received a text from a lighting tech in The Lab next door inviting me to watch SBTRCT from his lighting desk so I hastily made a dash for it.
I did run back to Paulo for his final songs, watching a spine tingling rendition of Slow Down, the song that began our love affair. The audience was elated and he had certainly delivered. It is for good reason he has three platinum selling albums to his name – he’s a charismatic performer, an accomplished artist, a handsome man. But for me, something had been lacking. Perhaps it’s my fault? Maybe I’d set the bar too high?
Maybe being 5’ 2” in a crowded auditorium watching the backs of heads affect enjoyment levels no matter who the live performer? I had no doubt missed the best parts of his show. I personally think Paulo Nutini suits a more intimate venue, not like a date, although obviously that would be alright, but an audience of less than 500. He needs to be seen up close and personal. As it was, 5’ 2” and no clue what was going on, I was distracted by the hedonism of SBTRCT next-door and the kind lighting tech with a perfect view of the stage.