It’s not easy, playing a big venue like The O2 on your own – but Paloma Faith nailed it tonight.
She did look nervous initially, it has to be said, appearing on stage after Samuel L Jackson’s introduction to ‘The Architect’ (what a coup that was, by the way) – although that might well have had something to do with all the stairs she had to navigate in stilettos as she followed her band, all clad in white, down to the stage. Dressed in shimmering silver, Paloma looked phenomenal – with a voice to match; I hadn’t realised until tonight what an accomplished singer she is.
Those nerves didn’t last long, though: “Put your hands together, London!” and the audience was on its feet as she launched into ‘CryBaby’. ‘Guilty’ came next – and it was evident that we were in for a good evening.
It was evident to Paloma, too. “Oh my God: hello London! Thanks for coming round – it is a home game, after all [chuckle]”. I’m really grateful that you’ve been so patient while I’ve been on maternity leave from the office [another chuckle] – and I’m glad my bosses have let me come back to work.”
Entering more pensive mode: “Now that I’m a mother, I wanted to write a more outward-looking album.” There followed a slightly rambling monologue about how her planned natural birth ended up as an emergency Caesarean, but then Paloma was back on track: “Why are we all so horrible to ourselves? And I mean both women and men. We forget to say thank you to our bodies for all the amazing things we do. I hope everyone goes home tonight and thinks about all the amazing stuff their body does for them. This is a song about doing exactly that: ‘My Body’. Let’s celebrate!”
Recently, I read an interview with Paloma in which she commented that her voice that her voice has changed since giving birth – and I can confirm that is true: it’s deeper and, arguably, stronger – and the next two songs, ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ and ‘Surrender’ showed that to perfect effect.
Paloma loves to chat. “Let’s make kindness cool”, she began. “I want to create an epidemic of kindness. At the moment, life’s all going to s**t. I don’t know if what I’m suggesting is going to benefit our generation, but it might benefit the next one.” Cue roars of approval from the audience.
Quite a special moment followed, with her co-writer of ‘I’ll be Gentle’, Paloma’s duet with John Legend, coming on stage to sing it with her. It was a very enjoyable version, even if it did involve some slightly awkward hugging, which eventually led to some more appropriate arm-swaying.
A change of scene, next, with Paloma atop of a grand piano singing ‘Just Be’. We were back in thoughtful mode now: “I wrote this next song after something very sad happened to me in Hackney, where I’m from. I saw my first boyfriend, who I dated from the age of 13 to 16, being handcuffed and his face shoved into the pavement.” Welling up, she continued, “Our eyes met and he bowed his head, as if to say: I know who you are and what you’ve become…please don’t acknowledge me.”
You could tell Paloma was genuinely afflicted by this experience. “When I knew him, he was a super-talented, intelligent, charismatic individual. People in positions of power need to take more responsibility for each other”, she concluded. “I wrote this next song for anyone who hasn’t become what they were meant to become.” She was referring to ‘Kings & Queens’, from ‘The Architect’ – a song which I love, even more so now I know the hidden meaning behind it.
We couldn’t stay sombre all night, though. “It’s time to dance now, London!” – and with that, the audience was on its feet, singing along to ‘I Just Can’t Rely On You’ and ‘Picking Up the Pieces’.
“Every day feels like the beginning of World War III, doesn’t it? The first line of this song is dedicated to Mr Donald Trump and all the people with enormous egos roaming this planet.” She was referring, of course, to ‘Til I’m Done’, which she followed up with a boisterous rendition of ‘It’s Not Over’ and then ‘Lullaby’, the song she penned with Sigala.
Suddenly, the backdrop transformed into a bright pink and Paloma dropped out of sight. Not for long, though: “I want everyone to join in with this one!” Mobile phone aloft, we swayed along to ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’.
Sadly, the evening was nearly over. “I have one more song left. It’s not my best-known song, but being a mum was the best and worst thing that happened to me. There was one person who was there for me, even when I turned into a complete lunatic. Coming from a broken home, I always thought men disappeared when things got bad. But my partner’s shown me that you can be your absolute bad self and he’ll still be there in the morning.”
With that, Paloma launched into a heartfelt rendition of ‘Love Me As I Am’. What a lovely way in which to end a thoroughly enjoyable evening.