Caledonia, he’s come home: Paolo Nutini’s Hydro performance an undisputed success

Paolo Nutini sings in front of the crowd at night two of his sold-out run at the OVO Hydro Paolo Nutini via Jodie Canwell

By Lauren Hunter (she/her)

Paolo Nutini’s sell-out five-night stint at the OVO Hydro in Glasgow undoubtedly had a lot riding on it. That’s around 71,500 fans with the highest expectations of one singer and his band making a hometown comeback – it’s easy to see how someone could falter under the immense pressure. But if he was nervous, his opening night certainly didn’t show it.

Personally, I’ve been a Paolo fan for as long as I can remember. I think every Scottish child of the 2000s will have some memory of trying, (and usually failing), to keep up with the racing lyrics of ‘Pencil Full of Lead’ on karaoke or at family parties – and it’s this unique quality of being universally loved by multiple generations that plays to the Paisley-born singer’s credit. 

I attended the opening night (13th December) with both my parents and another member of my family – a testament to Nutini’s appeal as there’s never normally consensus among our music tastes. This was reflected in the audience, too. There were teenagers with their grannies and every age in between, all sharing the rising anticipation to see this Scottish god grace the stage. 

The night started off well, if a little slowly, with a supporting set from German artist Brockhoff. Her songs were good but not exactly crowd-hyping, which wasn’t really the vibe I expected. Nevertheless, the excitement persisted, and soon enough Nutini rocked onto the stage with the electrifying, rasping opening notes of ‘Afterneath’.

The set followed similarly to his headline slot at TRNSMT in July, with the majority of time spent devoted to songs from his latest album, Last Night in the Bittersweet. My Spotify Wrapped would quickly tell you that this was one of my favourite albums of 2022, so I was more than happy to be dancing along to the likes of ‘Lose It’ and ‘Radio’ in the gig’s opening section. However, this is not to say that Nutini didn’t take care to nurture the softer moments; ‘Stranded Words’ and the criminally underrated ‘Take Me, Take Mine’ brought the storming crowd to a standstill, in awe of the beautiful, unmistakable vocals. 

Of course, we got all the old favourites too. Nutini took us on a whistle-stop tour ranging from 2006’s These Streets with ‘New Shoes’ and ‘Jenny Don’t be Hasty’ to ‘Scream (Funk My Life Up)’ from 2014’s Caustic Love, accompanied throughout by psychedelic on-screen visuals. It was these much-loved hits that really got the crowd going and also fed into the stage energy, with Nutini often seeming taken aback by the scale of it all, cheering and shouting into the mic.  

As much as I loved the upbeat moments, my highlight lay with ‘Candy’, taken from 2008’s Sunny Side Up and an all-time favourite of both mine and my mum’s. Some of the older hits from earlier in the night had been reworked, probably to suit how Nutini himself has gotten older and his relationship with those songs has changed over time, but ‘Candy’ remained largely unaltered, showing us its real true beauty. I will admit to being left quite emotional by the time the five-minute rollercoaster of a song came to an end – I couldn’t believe that I was finally hearing a big part of my teenage soundtrack live. This was promptly followed by the much more recent but equally as tear-inducing ‘Everywhere’, which was a frankly cruel move on Nutini’s part as I had only just pulled myself together before I was set off again. 

Time flew through this set. In actual fact, Nutini and the band were on stage for nearly two hours, but it didn’t feel long before we were hearing the encore. This took a surprisingly heart-warming turn, as he performed ‘Iron Sky’ – not without a quip about the current government, but later clarifying his “love for Nicola” – and then ‘Shine a Light’, a song, in his words, about “looking out for your friends, which we should do more of at the moment”. 

This rang in our ears as we filed out of the venue, sad that it was over but heartened by his imparting message of hope and love. It was definitely what I needed on the bitter, sub-zero night, and it leaves me with no doubt that Paolo Nutini will only grow more beloved as the years go on. 

Paolo Nutini played the Ovo Hydro, Glasgow, on December 13, 14, 16, 18 and 20, 2022.