Monday, 2 January 2017

Concert in the Gardens 2016 - Paolo Nutini, Lightning Seeds, The Vegan Leather, Lemonhaze

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

“Let's get rid of this weird-ass year,” says Paolo Nutini before launching into an epic rendering of Iron Sky, the third single from his 2014 Caustic Love album. It's less than ten minutes to 2017 on the second of two sold-out headline shows by Paisley's best known musical offspring, and Nutini is wearing his heart on his sleeve for a people's anthem backdropped by projections of some of the outgoing year's less savoury events.

As an excerpt from Charlie Chaplin's speech in The Great Dictator rings out over images of America's president elect, it's a magnificently calculated coup de theatre. Nutini returns after the bells with a more upbeat selection, accompanied this time by images of some of 2016's lesser sung triumphs.

With two out of three support acts also from Paisley, and with Nutini having had a hand in selecting all acts, there was an air of a mini Paolo-Stock. The three-song showcase by Lemonhaze revealed a charismatic blend of old school indie rock delivered with a confident swagger. Fellow Paisleyites The Vegan Leather proved themselves equally capable of hosting a party all of their own with an audacious pot pourri of indie disco strut that flitted between male/female vocal sparring, squelchy synth-led instrumentals and percussion breakdown singalongs.

To follow, Ian Broudie and his reconstituted four-piece version of Lightning Seeds played a selection of 1990s sired bubblegum pop gems. Stripped of their studio gloss by a line-up now featuring former Zutons saxophonist Abi Harding, Broudie's songs reveal their musical roots in abundance. The Life of Riley is given a Bo Diddleyish stomp and Sugarcoated Iceberg is invested with Motown bounce. There is even a cover of the Ronettes' Be My Baby.

The soul revue vibe fully kicks in when Nutini takes the stage with a band featuring a three-piece horn section and two female backing singers. The tone is set with the opening Scream (Funk My Life Up) followed by a cover of Betty LaVette's Let Me Down Easy. Strapping on a guitar for Jenny Don't Be Hasty, Nutini works the crowd with an easy charm that reveals him as an instinctive and increasingly seasoned showman.

Possessed with the carefree good looks of a pop idol who can inspire squeals just by removing his jacket, his voice seems to channel the spirit of Otis Redding before flipping into solo troubadour mode on a cover of Nat King Cole favourite, Mona Lisa and his own These Streets. Nutini's musical magpie tendencies are emboldened by musical arrangements that match the raw power of his voice and infectiously life-affirming lack of affectation.

A cover of Bruce Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark starts mournful, before eventually exploding into unabashed life. To finish, Nutini gets back to his own roots with a solo Last Request. With the crowd singing along with every word, it sounds like the biggest open mic night on the planet. In Nutini's world, at least, the future is already looking brighter.

The Herald, January 2nd 2017


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