Paolo Nutini / Magdalen Green / Steve Miller

Dundee Westport Bar on Tuesday 6 June 2006

What were you doing when you were nineteen? Most people will be beginning the first few years of their working life, or studying at college or University, but at the tender age of nineteen, Paisley singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini is packing out venues such as this one, the Dundee Westport, opening the main stage at the Radio 1 Big Weekend, and getting ready to play big name festivals around the UK. Enough to make you a little bit jealous, isn’t it?

Tonight’s gig opens with a solo artist going by the name of Steve Miller (no, not that Steve Miller). His “blink and you’ll miss it” fifteen minute set is just him on stage with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, and frankly fails to impress, or grab any attention from the crowd whatsoever. The overall sound is that of an above-average busker at a train station, and the frankly instantly forgettable set suggests that it will be a long time yet until it’s truly Millertime.

The venue slowly begins to fill up, and by the time local favourites Magdalen Green are on stage, the area in front of the stage is pretty full of people seated or standing.

Magdalen Green (myspace.com/magdalengreen) are a very impressive mix of alternative rock, folk, country, and even a little bit of blues thrown in, and their songs consist of vocals, two acoustic guitars, bass and percussion. They have a sound that is very relaxed and laid back, and would sound fantastic on a sunny day at an outdoor festival such as Guilfest.

Stories such as Blackbird and Son Of Lucifer (which declares that “just because he’s got his first class honours doesn’t make him a better man than me”) go down perfectly, and show a maturity that promises great things of the future, and goes some way to explain their place in the final rounds of the annual T-Break unsigned bands competition. Despite technical problems (possibly being down to the gigs date – 06/06/06), the band keep up a very high standard of musicianship.

Magdalen Green are almost like a slightly more country Belle & Sebastian, without being a country band at all. Something truly impossible to resist tapping your foot along to.

It’s remarkable how full the venue is when Paolo Nutini steps foot on stage, having played the One Big Weekend in the city a couple of months ago to over 10,000 people, it’s clear that he’s managed to win many people over.

It’s not hard to understand why. The gig provides something that’s incredible to watch and listen to, but a nightmare to review, as it’s truly almost impossible to fault the performance. Starting off with Alleyway Grove and Rewind, the crowd are immediately drawn into the music and the tales that Paolo tells, and there is barely room to move with fans flooding the floor.

The gig feels incredibly intimate and personal, whether this atmosphere could be kept in a larger venue is something that could only be proved when the situation rears its head, but simple inspirations for songs that people can relate to such as the feeling you get wearing a new pair of shoes allow the music to be instantly accessible, the song mentioned being “New Shoes”, which thankfully avoids being like David Dundas of “Jeans On” fame, but a confident strut that is difficult to ignore.

It’s incredible how many musical references you can try make to the music, at one minute, it’s possible to consider him a male Macy Gray, or a Scottish Conor Oberst, or the new Bob Dylan, but it’s almost impossible to actually nail down any stolen ideas or unprocessed inspirations in the song writing, something very clever for such a young artist, every song contains something very intelligent and original about it. Given the fact that he is also an exceedingly charming host means that he’s highly unlikely to be playing venues as small as the Westport in the near future.

Where “Loving You” and “Jenny Don’t Be Hasty” (almost reminiscent of the Rolling Stones more bluesy influenced numbers) are numbers which get the full band going, but where Paolo excels is where the songs are stripped down, such as download-only free single “These Streets” and upcoming single “Last Request”, they really showcase his warm tones.

As I say, it’s very difficult to fault the performance, but on a couple of songs, he does stray a little too close to jazz-irritant Jamie Cullum’s territory for comfort, but the influence from 60’s and 70’s soul music allows the music to maintain its legitimacy, the songs are the tale of a nineteen year old, they don’t try and be the story of some performer of years gone by.

Leaving the stage after “These Streets”, he comes back on to rapturous applause and cheering, telling the crowd “I was always going to play one more song, this was just my little ego-trip”, and treating us to new song “January”, only the second time he’s played the song live.

It’s incredible that given the short time the acoustic EP has been available on the internet, people already know the songs and sing along with the band, they already have favourites, and it’s incredible given the fact that the full debut album hasn’t even been released yet.

However, he does what all artists worth their salt should do, and pays tribute to the Dundee crowd by putting to rest the cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” in a fantastic unplanned and completely off-the-cuff moment, announced as “We started this here at the Dundee Big Weekend, played it again in Manchester, and this will be the last time we ever play this”, Paolo is clearly just having fun up on stage, and the audience respond as loudly as you could imagine.

Dundee has had a lot of big names play in various venues around the city over the years, back in the ‘60s, the Beatles played the Caird Hall, the 70’s saw the Sex Pistols and the Damned at the same venue, the ‘80s saw the Smiths play, and recently the likes of Franz Ferdinand, The Kooks, Kasabian, Snow Patrol, The Subways and Editors all play small 200-300 capacity venues.

It’d be a surprise if Paolo Nutini did not join those names, a young man with a knack for writing memorable and timeless music, and also an outstanding voice. In fact, it’s not just enough to make you a little jealous, but completely green with envy.

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article by: Matthew Shaw

published: 12/06/2006 10:22


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