You might be forgiven, when Paloma Faith announces that her show is a return to real music, for thinking that this singer-actress from Hackney rather likes herself.
What she means is that hearing people play instruments in the same room is far better than listening to audiofiles, which, she says, in her forthright manner, "sound sh*t."
Faith has taken this philosophy more seriously than possibly any other pop star before, touring the UK with a forty-two piece orchestra. The result is a spectacular show in the old style that still belongs, thrives even, in the current era. But with reservations. The orchestrations are magnificent. Guy Barker, a brilliantly gifted trumpeter who lately has increasingly traded his trumpet for a conductor's baton and manuscript paper, created both a shortish overture and a series of sumptuous, imaginative, bespoke settings for Faith in the main set.
Loading article content
As befits a chap whose dad was a stunt man, there's a cinematic quality to Barker's scoring. The opening Sing Sing Sing had something of John (Star Wars) Williams's drama before going on to blend Benny Goodman's original big band intentions with gorgeous weeping strings, and his combining of Lover Man, At Last and three Faith songs, without vocals, masterfully encapsulated emotions, colour and detail.
Faith's arrival was a bit like having Holland's stellar Metropole Orchestra accompany Olive Oyl, however. Her pitching is insecure, her diction is unclear and her unattractively brassy vocal timbre makes the effort of understanding what she's singing unrewarding. She's obviously very popular and was rapturously received but it was the band your reviewer was listening to by the end.