Words by Ed King / Pictures by Katja Ogrin
It’s the first Sunday after the Big Smooch, and Nerina Pallot is closing her Lonely Valentine Club Tour at the Birmingham Glee Club.
An auspicious day for several reasons, I walk through a deserted city centre muttering my journalistic mantra: “objectivity, objectivity, objectivity” – reiterating my golden rule of gig reporting, cover both the pros and the cons. No one likes a suck up or a bitch.
But I’m curious about tonight, having been aboard the good ship Pallot after hearing ‘Put Your Hands Up’ in early 2011 – an infectious pop jaunt, and one I still struggle not to audibly sing along to. Often to the dismay of the rest of the train carriage (supermarket queue, bus, doctor’s waiting room…)
But it was watching Pallot’s live recordings that reeled me in: ‘Idaho’ preformed at Scala, her cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, and ‘Sophia’ performed on Gloria Hunniford’s TV show – the latter setting a benchmark I found unreached on the albums. I’m curious to see, first hand, what Nerina Pallot is like on stage.
Arriving just before the doors close, The Glee Club is standing room only. I lean against the back wall, protecting a large Shiraz between my feet, and use the Emergency Exit sign for scribble light.
‘…full room’, ‘…end of tour’,’ …mixed crowd’. And to my selfish excitement ‘…Yamaha C5 Grand’ – there is a piano on stage.
Nerina Pallot starts, appropriately, with ‘It Starts’ – an album track from her 2009 LP, The Graduate. Then eyes closed, soaring vocals, soft proficient fingers, and straight into ‘Idaho’; as Pallot’s melodic declaration comes rolling off stage I fight a Cheshire Cat grin.
“Hello Brum, it’s beautiful to be back here,” welcomes us into the fold, as Pallot explains the Hallmark retaliation of her Lonely Valentine Club – available on stage and as an EP – and introduces the “sort of greatest hits set” she intends to perform. I scan the crowd, calculating couples and singles, as Pallot apologises for the evening’s lack of chintz or chocolate hearts, admitting “if you came in quite cheery, well… good for you.”
‘All Bets Are Off’ gets a bluesy outing on ivory, before an admission of “lottery longing”, religious indiscretion and gun point phobia segues us into ‘Once’ – the lead lounge jazz track from the tour’s eponymous EP.
“Clippetty clopping” over to the mike stand, Pallot picks up her guitar to play ‘Human’, reminding us before the end of the first verse that she is indeed just that. As soft plucking and considered strings fall into deep bluesy vocals and strum, I notice the couple in front of me start to embrace.
‘Love is an Unmade Bed’, another track from the Lonely Valentine Club EP, is up next; a slow bluesy lament about love’s mutual demise. Before the ferociously dark lyrics of ‘Mr King’ sneak cautiously off stage.
Two singles, the 2011 ‘Turn Me On Again’ and 2006 ‘Everybody’s Going to War’, get a back to back delivery – shining brighter acoustically than after their studio polishing. Before a brief pause to talk about the Hadron Collider and “out poshing” some ferry bound seat stealers.“Tweed when it’s not cold???” I am, at this point, crouched on the floor.
Back behind the piano and ‘Geek Love’ gets a jazz lilt, as Pallot rolls her shoulders up and down the keys, before moving straight into her 2009 single ‘Real Late Starter’.
A call for requests ends up in a medley of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Learning to Breathe’, before a cover of Ce Ce Peniston’s 1991 dance track – ‘Finally’, surprises me. Seeing ‘Finally’ on the Lonely Valentine Club EP track listing left a nervous rock in my stomach, having witnessed many unfortunate attempts at dance floor adaptations. But Pallot gives the punchy love anthem a modern jazz sedative and makes it exquisitely her own; I am left to add the word ‘kudos’ to my scribbles, and not much else.
‘Grace’ gets Pallot back on guitar, before ‘Put Your Hands Up’ closes the set over a backdrop of unison hand clapping, sporadic dancing and restrained back of the room singing. I did warn you.
All that’s left is a slightly selfish encore (we all know Pallot has a sick child waiting in the wings) and the Ivor Novello nominated ‘Sophia’, a simply remarkable song and a fitting epitaph to the tour.
And as the standing ovation turns into an Alton Towers queue for the merchandise table, I stare at my notepad and mutter once more, “objectivity, objectivity, objectivity…”
I don’t like ‘Love is an Unmade Bed’, as a title. The only honest con I could muster.
For more on Nerina Pallot, including a digital download of her ‘Lonely Valentine Club’ EP, visit hwww.nerinapallot.com
For more gigs at The Glee Club, visit www.glee.co.uk/birmingham-music