PAOLO NUTINI, Teenage Cancer Trust at the Albert Hall – Evening Standard, 27 March 2014

After Ed Sheeran opened this year’s season of gigs for Teenage Cancer Trust at the Albert Hall, Paolo Nutini was the second scruffy troubadour with a new album on the way. That meant a barrowload of previously unheard songs, which can be a privilege or a chore depending on the balance. The Scots-Italian’s crime was a double one too, for he also delivered many of his older hits in near unrecognisable forms.

Existing fans will already know that this free spirit requires you to follow him on his artistic journey. His two albums to date are radically different and both are five-times platinum. That means he’s bankable whatever he attempts, which this time ranges from hip-swivelling gospel on Scream (Funk my Life Up) to smouldering Marvin Gaye soul on Diana.

The most immediately likeable new songs were a shuffling funk number inexplicably titled Numpty, and a touching acoustic ballad, Better Man, so lovesick that the thud of swooning women hitting the floor acted as a rhythm track. Others will be growers such as Cherry Blossom, which didn’t stand out even with an appearance from Roger Daltrey, and the intense Iron Sky, on which Nutini pushed the cracks in his ragged voice to breaking point.

Some of his reworkings of earlier songs were improvements, better suited to his increasingly heavyweight demeanour. His superb 10-piece band gave propulsive rock energy to the previously silly Pencil Full of Lead, while Jenny Don’t Be Hasty acquired a mean low riff. His battered suitcase of a voice carried everything off with real passion.

Once all those new songs become old favourites, that passion will be returned more forcefully from his audience.