One of my favourite things about SXSW is the ability to see relatively popular UK female pop stars come to North America and play in complete obscurity. I like this because
a) they are pretty seasoned in terms of performing live
b) they are usually playing some divey bar, which is totally not something they are used to
c) well, they are generally very attractive.
It seems in the past few years the UK has been producing female pop sensations at an absurd pace. Just take a look at this list: La Roux, Marina and the Diamonds, Florence and the Machines, Little Boots, Ellie Goulding, Jessie Ware, Jessie J. While it is unfair to lump all these artists into the same group (their music are all different), you can make a case that the marketing firms, record labels and other suits in the industry know what they are doing in terms of exporting their talents.
This SXSW sees another female act take the next step. Paloma Faith is a singer from England and has already two solid albums in England. Paloma’s music is more soul/40′s era lounge singer inspired unlike the straight up pop sounds of previous SXSW alumuni’s Ellie Goulding and Marina. I only briefly glanced at her bio before deciding to check her out at Peckerheads on Saturday.
A packed room of mostly English/ex-pats people was on hand when I arrived. Say what you want to about the English, but they are sure supportive of their own music. Not knowing what she sounded like, I got excited when her backing singers took the stage. The backing singers were black, had massive afros and dressed in sparking dresses. I was like ‘damn, this show gonna be good’. Is that racist? I don’t know. I just assumed that they were fantastic soul singers. Maybe it’s reverse racism? but I guess any sort of presumption about any ethnic group is racism to some degree. Either way, they got me excited. Maybe it’s more of backing singers excited me. Yeah, that’s it.
Paloma Faith soon joined her on stage and of course the UK people in the crowd were pumped. With her ginger hair done up in a extremely complicated way and a sharp red dress with matching red lipstick, it was pretty clear that Paloma was the star attraction of this show. Having not heard a single track of hers before the show, I was delighted by the soul-smokey lounge vibe of her set. Her voice, her dance moves and her flirty audience participation all seem to play homage to a time that existed before our lifetime. Her upbeat numbers, including the hit Picking Up The Pieces had the crowd moving and clapping her hands. I think I was one of the few there who did not know her songs. With her hair done up, it was hard not to think of Amy Winehouse whenever Paloma did her slower numbers, although Paloma has a higher, less “smoked ten packs of cigarettes a day” voice. The backup singers were awesome expected, adding to the soul vibe of the songs.
Having spent some time as an actress, Paloma Faith was confident and effortless on stage in terms of presenting herself and providing fun banter. As the set ended, she asked the crowd to tell their friends about her, so she can make it big in America. At the same time, she spoke of how refreshing it was to not be recognized anywhere. I wonder if that is some sort of #superfirstworld problem to encounter.
I never can tell which of these UK female acts will be huge here, but if the word does spread and Paloma Faith hits it big, there is no doubt she is ready.