The arena is packed on arrival. People of all shapes, colours, sizes and ages mill about the bowels of this huge building queuing for drinks and snacks while burning away the minutes in high anticipation of what’s about to unfold. There’s a true sense of spectacle to tonight’s event.
To start the show, we’ve got the Liverpool-Londoner support act XAMVOLO. Playing to an adopted home crowd, XamVolo presents an interesting show, fusing jazz, soul, pop and funk while producing sounds as smooth as caramel. Enigmatic, it’s hard to know where to place XamVolo: there are echoes of Childish Gambino’s off-kilter soul, as well as a discernible pop sensibility. Both ends of the spectrum are definitely present in his material, and it’s clear that he’s intent on carving out his own space. He is impressive. He’s perhaps not quite brash or loud enough to fully win over the audience of a sold-out arena but that’s not to his detriment; arenas are often packed full of thousands of heads that have made the extra effort to pay over-the-odds for their favourite star and, on the night, little will please them other than what they came to see.
Anticipation hits a high as the stage sets changeover and people filter into the empty seats. Everything continues to build, until finally, all the lights fade. We’re treated to a full opening monologue by Samuel L. Jackson, who implores us to wake up and believe in our potential to do great things. Then, from under the floor, rises PALOMA FAITH.
The opening track of the set is the powerful The Architect, and from the outset her voice is strong and, in a word, flawless. She’s engaged with the crowd and lively but visibly passionate about every word she sings. There’s also something understated about the way she carries herself, as if she’s performing in a small bar or club. The band play with utter precision through tracks such as Crybaby and the deeply soulful Lost And Lonely.
In between tracks Paloma shares with the crowd her thoughts on everything from body shaming, motherhood and racial politics, to kindness and conceptions of femininity. It’s lovely to see a performer bare their soul to the strangers in the crowd. Too many people expect artists to merely be performing monkeys for their entertainment. These mid-set chats introduce us to the person herself, inspiring as any great role model should be.
Political discourse aside, Paloma is a modern soul queen and this show displays the full range of her expression. Included under the umbrella term of pop, songs such as the stunning piano-driven Just Be, as well as Picking Up the Pieces and Price Of Fame, demonstrate perfectly that she has much to say and deep wells of musical insights to share.
She finishes the set with the stirring ballad Love Me As I Am and leaves the huge crowd with a feeling of elation. She’s poured her heart and soul into this performance and it shows. This is what the world needs more of.