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Paolo Nutini returns to Birmingham O2 Academy after a 7-year-long musical hiatus and doesn’t disappoint

O2 Academy Birmingham, 28 October 2022  

At Birmingham’s O2 Academy on 28 October 2022, Paolo Nutini shuffles on stage as part of his first tour in seven years, hiding under a dishevelled mop of hair that successfully maintains his infamous elusive persona. This notable absence due to Nutini’s struggles with the pressures of fame appears not to have hindered the enthusiasm of his devoted audience. They are enraptured as the disjointed percussion of his new track ‘Aftermath’ slowly builds under Nutini’s warm and haunting vocals.  

Despite there being nothing noteworthy about Nutini’s set, lighting, and audience interactions (the list goes on), there is something exceptional about the lack of smoke and mirrors, frequently utilised by musicians to cover for potential vocal weakness under the pressure of performing live. Rather, Nutini uses a minimalistic set-up and can hold the audience primarily through the magnetism of his beautifully coarse vocals. Having said this, credit to the craft and skill of his band is undoubtedly due. They stand behind Nutini, effortlessly supporting him through smooth transitions, creating the desired character for each track. In addition to this, lighting is admittedly kept minimal, but the subtle kaleidoscopic images across the back screen are successful in elevating his newer, more experimental tracks. 

The energy drops slightly in the time between his well-known classics

Nutini’s sustained popularity appears to range across three generations, all of whom are well represented, and each as enthusiastic as the other. This ageless solidarity is particularly evident when intros to Nutini’s old classics create an atmosphere of frenzied excitement. ‘Candy’ is echoed back as if it’s a current chart-topper rather than a track released in 2009. The downside to this is that the darker, rock-influenced tracks from his album released this year, Last Night in the Bittersweet, are generally less well-received. The crowd’s preference for nostalgic throwbacks means the energy drops slightly in the time between his well-known classics. The impact of this is exacerbated by newly revised versions of beloved tracks ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’ (2006) and ‘New Shoes’ (2009), both of which have evolved from tuneful and cheerful to foreboding and soulful. 

Nutini however, manages to rectify the change in mood triggered by his new 60s psychedelic rock-influenced tracks and rejuvenated versions of old classics. His brooding and heartfelt performance of new rock-pop ballads ‘Acid Eyes’ and ‘Through the Echoes’ easily win back the audience’s full attention. They offer something new, yet simultaneously speak to the earnest vulnerability that makes his earlier music so special. A standout moment comes halfway through the concert when Nutini sits alone in the centre of the stage and sings ‘One Day’. His voice soars effortlessly through the chorus in his signature faultless and rasping vibrato. It’s impossible to remain unaffected by such a raw, emotive performance, evident in the way couples, families and friends are moved to embrace each other and even a few tears are shed. It’s worth noting here how amicable and tolerant the atmosphere of the crowd is. No one is pushing one another to get closer to the action, rather everyone appears to be wholly focused on enjoying the music and allowing others to do the same. 

With time his newer tracks will undoubtedly earn the revered status of his old classics

An unforgettable takeaway from Nutini’s concert was how he was able to create an intimate atmosphere despite the packed 3000 capacity of Birmingham O2 Academy. The overwhelmingly positive reception of his audience reflects the lasting impact his early albums have had on people. Despite less enthusiasm for his newer tracks, they reveal the hard work that has occurred in private to broaden his use of genre and develop his style and musicianship. With time, his newer tracks will undoubtedly earn the revered status of his old classics. This is an exciting prospect if Nutini continues producing and sharing his music, and is a promising evolution that will undoubtedly be closely followed by his devoted fan base. 


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