A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see British vocal sensation Paloma Faith at San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop. I originally thought that it was an interesting venue choice not only for SF, but for someone who can easily sell out much larger venues in the UK; however this was Faith’s first US tour and you gotta start somewhere. It was a big bonus for me, as I’ll always take a smaller venue to see an artist over a larger one.
My first Paloma Faith experience almost didn’t happen. Flight delays and lost luggage (which included her hair and makeup, as well as the band’s gear) forced the singer to take the stage much later than expected (they were this close to cancelling the show because of it).
Her set featured most of her new album, Fall to Grace, although she did play “New York” from her first album Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful. “Picking Up the Pieces,” “30 Minute Love Affair” and “Let Your Love Walk In” were great teasers for the new album. The acoustic version of “Agony” was hauntingly beautiful and an emotional alternative to the original. Faith shared that “Black and Blue” was written as a response to her mom’s observation that, “all the women singers in Britain are singing about how men have ruined their lives, and I don’t think that sends a very good example.” The song’s lyric, “wipe it on your sleeve, your superiority / don’t roll your eyes my sweet” will stick with you.
There were several clever storytelling moments during the show (which I personally loved. Faith is very funny and articulate). Faith revealed that when writing “New York,” she thought that New York City was our capitol, but was later informed otherwise. She then inserted “not Washington” into the first chorus of “New York.” She cheekily dedicated “Just Be” to anyone who has been in a relationship more than 5 months (and if you weren’t there yet, you would soon understand). She explained her experience purchasing teeth grills in New York City (where all the hip hop artists get them) after someone from the audience noticed them. Sadly, I was too far back to see them.
The highlight of the evening was when Faith took off her towering platform heels, climbed up onto the grand piano and encouraged the audience to celebrate their freedom (since we like to do that in my fair city) for her next song. Faith went on to explain that the anthemic “Freedom” was written as a “two fingers up (no, not the peace sign) to everything that would hold us down.” The song started slowly, but quickly turned into a powerhouse moment, as Faith unleashed her incredible voice. No joke, this woman has some serious pipes. She also knows how to work the crowd and get them into the music. Her burlesque past definitely comes in handy here. I didn’t even know the song and I was dancing along to it (sidenote, I dance around to this song in my apartment when I’m cleaning or have writers block…those are two things I’d like freedom from).
Faith played for a little over an hour. I’m not sure if she would’ve played longer had delays not derailed the show, but her voice was pitch perfect and she made the most of the time she was on-stage. Sadly, the Rickshaw Stop didn’t have much to offer the singer in terms of a stage, backdrop and lighting, but those were small glitches in an otherwise memorable show.
I tweeted right after the show that I felt very fortunate to have been able to see Faith in such a small venue. As much as I would love to see her in an intimate setting again, I highly doubt I’ll be able to. Aside from growing crowds that will want to see her, that voice needs to fill a big room. I’m sure that her return trip will be quite different, in every way possible, from this one.
Paloma Faith’s second album, Fall to Grace will be released on November 24. If you can’t wait that long to hear it, check out her YouTube page for videos.
Until next week (and my next obsession)!
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