Paolo Nutini turns 850-year-old church into house of soul at intimate hometown show

Local hero plays one-off charity gig in Paisley Abbey

Paolo Nutini returned to his birthplace of Paisley, Scotland, for a special charity gig to support Syrian refugees last night, as well as the town’s bid to become UK City of Culture in 2021.

They’re up against four other places across the country, all vying for the title and Nutini’s mammoth show at Paisley Abbey last night might have pushed them across the finish line.

Emerging on stage in a white t-shirt, blue jeans and desert boots, the 30-year-old played a near three-hour set that included material from all of his three studio albums. Plus a few surprising covers.

“I can’t believe we’re in here,” he told the crowd. Before one keen audience member shouted for him to shut up and play the hits. “That’s why I’m here baby. I won’t take too much persuasion on that one,” he responded.

An acoustic version of Aztec Camera’s 1987 hit ‘Somewhere In My Heart’ kicked off the performance, delighting fans with its choppy riffs and catchy melody. Next came electric rocker ‘Alloway Grove’, before retro blues jam ‘Let Me Down Easy’ had gig-goers dancing in the aisles as psychedelic visuals dappled the medieval walls of the 12th Century church. It was already an intimate event, but the ancient setting added another layer of mystique to Nutini’s throwback performance. After all, you don’t often watch a show in a venue that also doubles as a place of worship.

paolo nutini paisley abbey

Paisley Abbey was first built in 1163

He was joined on stage by a whopping 14 different musicians, and each contributed to the overall sound. There was punchy brass on 2009 track ‘Coming Up Easy’, funky bass on ‘Better Man’ and lush strings during a “new song” which sounded like a Nick Drake folk-blues ballad.

The Scottish singer’s only released three albums since his 2006 debut, and so called upon a couple of classic tunes to beef up the epic setlist. These included a jazzy take on Nat King Cole classic ‘Nature Boy’ and an unexpected, brief cover of Kanye West’s ‘All Falls Down’ — which segued nicely into final encore (and fan favourite) ‘Last Request’.

This last track brought the biggest cheer of the night from an audience partly made up of Nutini’s friends and family. Only 550 tickets were allocated after more than 50,000 entered the ballot, so punters were friendly but up for a good time. “I don’t wanna see that flying back past my head,” said Nutini after handing his drink out to one boisterous fan.

Paisley finds out in December if it’s snagged UK culture’s top honour, but if the crowd’s reaction last night is anything to go by, they must feel like they’ve already won.

Paolo Nutini played:

Somewhere in My Heart

Alloway Grove

Let Me Down Easy

Coming Up Easy

Jenny Don’t Be Hasty

Looking for Something

Better Man

These Streets

Cherry Blossom

Tricks

Radio

La Luna

Diana

Nature Boy

Bear Me In Mind

One Day

Pencil Full of Lead

No Other Way

Iron Sky

Scream (Funk My Life Up)

Numpty

Candy

Someone Like You

All Falls Down

Last Request