Paolo Conte, Barbican, Friday 16th October

PconteWith most of the near capacity crowd in the Barbican on their feet whooping, cheering and singing along with Paolo Conte as he reprised Wonderful for his second encore, the  veteran Italian crooner’s conquest was complete.  This audience were probably a push-over however. From the rapturous reception as he arrived on stage, through the spontaneous cheers and ripples of applause that greeted the opening bars of another jaunty theme, it was clear that his UK fan-base was out in force. He purrs and growls rather than sings.  The band, consisting of multiple guitars, rotating pianists, percussionists, saxophonists, now accordion, now second keyboard by turns evoked swing era dance bands, Italian cafe music, muted Hot Club swing, playful western-style country or sentimental ballads. Lest the latter appeared too saccharine, Conte was apt to rasp his lyric through a kazoo – like device.  The crescendos and swell  of understated latin grooves accumulated exquisitely judged intensity before, with a flap of his arms, Conte brought them to a halt. To have resisted the charm and force of this bravura performance would have taken a stonier heart than mine.

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