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It's a Friday night in Manchester, we're going to see Paloma Faith, a second time around for us, and the venue is sold out. The show last year was outstanding; we wondered how she could possibly top that. We arrive earlier than usual at 7.15pm in the hope of a prime view; met by a colossal queue right down the street. Once in the Academy we head towards the front, not long to wait now, it's 8pm and La Shark are on the stage (it's packed with Paloma’s stage set so they are a bit cramped for space). La Shark are wearing an odd ensemble of outfits, not dissimilar to Haircut 100 back in the day, wearing shorts and khakis, fronted by a flame haired singer called Samuel. Not a band which I could particularly adhere to, the music was a bit eighties sounding and just wasn’t for me, singing songs such as ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer, and ‘Bones’. Just the one struck me which was bouncy and had a certain sing-along appeal.

I’m desperately waiting for the main act of the night; bring on the cockney chanteuse Paloma Faith. Around 8.30pm Paloma's set is being re created with a sky backdrop, the covers are pulled off to reveal a large prism style mirrored dome resplendent with ornate centre piece, quite a spectacular Hollywood themed set, with side steps on both sides of the stage. The band appear in the wings soon after, the audience roared, her trio of backing singers totter onto the stage, in massive heels, supporting each other to the mike stands, dressed in red minuscule dresses topped with red hair bows and gloves. The music starts up; the crowd are getting excited, and from the side comes Paloma. Creating a sensational entrance, negotiating her steps carefully, she walks along the sides which take her around the rear of the stage, gracefully flaying two large orange feather fans as she glides along. She launches straight into the first song 'Smoke And Mirrors', it’s closely followed by ‘Stone Cold Sober’.

Of course no Paloma show would be complete without a description of her outfits, which are normally spectacular. However the first chosen outfit was a bit of a mixed bag - "I wore this on GMTV this morning", it consisted of a tiger print sequinned vest top, with long, floral skirt, which did absolutely nothing to flatter her. Paloma you’re much better when you do glamorous 40's style, she morphed into those later, when she displayed her diva outfit of black sequinned sheath dress and hat, serenading us with a slow jazz number ‘Don’t Explain’.

VIDEO: 'Broken Doll'

She asks for a volunteer from the crowd and the guy (Ben) stood to my right is selected, much to his delight. He is whisked over the front barrier and onto the stage, positioned onto the stool next to Paloma, who then tries (successfully) to whoo him singing 'Romance is Dead' . Afterwards he is thanked and thrown back into the lions den, seemingly pleased as punch. "What a hot guy" says Paloma.

She struts around the stage in the most enormously death defying heels in canary yellow, telling Manchester just how good they all look tonight. As usual the crowd love her, she talks quite a bit to the packed house, telling them she used to live up North and even tries her hand at the accent a la Coronation Street style. She mentions playing in Manchester at a tiny venue (which was the ruby lounge) she said the audience had "multiplied like gremlins, you must've had water sprinkled over you". Paloma’s enthusiasm and girlishness is contagious - she is very natural and down to earth, with a singing voice which infuses jazz, soul, and pop. Paloma sang ‘Don’t Explain’ with a confidence belying her 24 years, and quite why she wasn't nominated for any awards recently is beyond me! She has a great rapport with her guitarist, the brilliant Seye Adelekan.

It’s almost like the great British tradition of musical halls, wacky, and eccentric with lashing of human warmth. “Let Me See You Shake Something” - "Oh I forgot my camera to film my diary" and talking to the crowd about meeting them later at the merch stall “but don’t shout if I can’t stay long as I get tired”. There’s not many singers in her position would take their time out to do this, so hats off to Paloma.

VIDEO: 'Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful''

Paloma continues on with the show, giving us excellent faultless renditions of The Beatles ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ and Etta James ‘At Last’. A final change of outfit was an American stars & striped sequined tracksuit, topped with her trademark heels and tasselled sequinned vest and two large cherries adorning her hair.

She played us out to ‘New York – which worked wonderfully with her matching themed outfit. A breathtaking show, full of glamour, magnificent tunes, and great atmosphere, long may Paloma reign. Finally she did a meet and greet after the show, signing autographs at the merchandise stall, where a large queue was  forming just as we were departing.

VIDEO: 'At Last'

Setlist: Smoke And Mirrors
Stone Cold Sober
Romance Is Dead
Broken Doll
Truth remix
Don't Explain
My Legs Are Weak
You Never Give Me Your Money - Beatles
Love Ya
Upside Down
Play On
Normal Truth
At Last - Etta James
New York

Vocals: Paloma Faith
Guitar: Seye Adelekan
Bass: Andrea Goldsworthy
Drums: Sam Agard
Keys: Dom Pipkin
Backing Singers: Lianne Charlotte Barnes, Baby Sol, Jetta

Review/photos/video by Mel

With additional main photo by Tomm James/videos from YouTube member - Orezlyrad

See more of my photos from the show on Flickr