Paolo Nutini, Royal Highland Showgrounds, Ingliston ****
Paolo Nutini rocks like it’s 1973 – a soothing, satisfying songwriter, entirely wayward in the face of current trends, whose fans love him regardless. At Ingliston on Thursday night, 26,000 people watched him do more or less whatever he wanted, and lapped it up willingly.
Anyone who knows Nutini’s last album – 2022’s Last Night in the Bittersweet, released eight years after its predecessor Caustic Love – knows exactly how much his love for expansive old school rock has overtaken his sound. Yet what’s certainly impressive amid his live set is just how much he’s willing to subvert his old material to his new style.
In the early years of his career, during the 2000s, he made his name with plaintive indie-rock ballads and a kind of ragtime-influenced, upbeat pop songwriting which had its own compelling character. Here, his key songs were transformed; New Shoes, for example, into a strolling, prowling groove, the saxophone backing lending excitement and Nutini’s gruff voice sounding almost menacing.
Pencil Full of Lead, meanwhile, became a clashing set of moody rock guitars with a hint of synthesiser in the background. It’s no exaggeration to say it was reminiscent of Neu!, while other hits played included Let Me Down Easy, the bongo and guitar sound adding a Happy Mondays edge, and Candy, now a sun-kissed West Coast rocker which retained its singalong potential.
There was still showmanship here – “We want to do a song written by two guys from Paisley,” he laughed before a cover of Stealers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle with You, “is anybody from Paisley here?” (he is). But for the most part this felt like a journey away from simple jukebox pop, and a field full of people were right there for the ride.