Towards the end of her set, Paloma Faith coyly reflected on the unique opportunity of performing at the Royal Albert Hall in this, her Proms debut: ‘we might not get invited back again!’ And so, for better (glitzier) or worse (blaringly loud), this was a non-stop party through the singer’s latest album A Perfect Contradiction, intent on drawing out the sassy diva inside everyone on and off the stage.

Paloma © Mark Allan
Paloma
© Mark Allan
From her confident strut out in a shimmering Monroe-esque dress to her flirtatious camaraderie with conductor Guy Barker, the self-styled starlet’s glamour is brash and unapologetic. Though she shared the stage with an entourage of backing singers, the soulful Urban Voices Collective and a 42 piece jazz orchestra – each performer brimming with energetic spirit and individuality – the limelight was consistently Paloma’s. This was no straightforward album concert, but a glittering spectacle designed to seduce its audience with the nostalgic glamour now synonymous with Faith.

Like the moodily atmospheric opening to a Bond film, an orchestral prelude of shimmering strings and climbing chromatic lines set the melodramatic tone which was to underpin much of Faith’s performance. She seems to hand-pick her musical influences from the funkiest highlights of the past six decades – her first number Mouth to Mouth a disco tribute, full of whooping call-and-response inserts from the UV Collective. The choir should be commended right from this opening, not only for their immaculate monochrome outfits and focus but also their infectiously high energy.

Paloma Faith © Mark Allan
Paloma Faith
© Mark Allan
Swiftly moving into Take Me, Faith brought the da-wooping flavour of Motown fun. Though she is famously private about the details of her personal life, her various developments as a performer were showcased throughout the evening, from the ‘Soho jazz bars’ where she and Guy Barker first met, to her career as a burlesque artist. Here, the melodic line carried by the vocalists was punctuated by brass stabs and a series of cheeky pin-up girl poses. In what could be a relentlessly powerful number, both orchestration and choreography helped to shift the energies around each group of performers on stage, including some knock-out tambourine playing in the percussion section and the perfect synchrony of Faith’s regular backing singing trio.

After Faith’s note of thanks to the Proms organisers, the audience seemed to take to heart the instruction ‘Please dance. It may be the Albert Hall but we are human!’ The amount of jiggling about in seats only increased from here on in, indicating the warmth with which Paloma’s girl-next-door friendliness was received in the hall.

Love Only Leaves You Lonely briefly lowered the mood, with atmospheric blue lighting against a projected background of twinkling falling diamonds. Unfortunately, the variety which held up Take Me earlier in the night was missing here, and the number was consistently loud – so loud that it ended up missing the emotional tug a power ballad like this has the potential to achieve. The volume issues were resolved somewhat in Taste My Own Tears, and Faith was able to show off her wide register a lot more impressively – yet the song was treated with arm-waving familiarity and the emotional resonance of the lyrics once again got lost in its delivery.

At this point in the evening, Faith paid tribute to the artists who inspired her to sing, in a series of classic covers of Betty Lavette, Keely Smith and Etta James. Full of attitude, it’s clear that much of her characterised performance style is drawn from emulating her musical heroes. She has the mesmerising ability to transform herself into a starlet from another era, a convincingly sultry, hair-flicking, temptress. This patchwork of musical and performance influences is very much in the fabric of Faith’s persona, yet as a natural consequence some sense of authenticity is inevitably lost. At one point, she is a scatting vocally agile Mariah, at another a pouting, seductive Marilyn – another, a feistily powerful Aretha. These of course are incredible models to base a vocal performance on, but leave me hard-pushed to define Paloma entirely in her own right.

Paloma Faith and Ty Taylor © Mark Allan
Paloma Faith and Ty Taylor
© Mark Allan
Joining her on stage for a forceful sing-off is the American showman Ty Taylor, a friend and ‘great inspiration’ to Paloma. He’s a smooth mover with great stage presence and a voice to match, and for once in the evening Paloma is graciously upstaged. Each bellows a little louder than the other in a theatrical duet of James’ I’d Rather Go Blind and though noisy, Taylor’s talent is undisputable and is met with a full standing ovation from the audience.

Faith belts out her most successful number to date, Only Love Can Hurt Like This, which was written by Diane Warren and reached number one in the Australian charts. The song is clearly of great importance to the singer, and the rising register compliments the intense power of Faith’s voice well. Her ‘second most successful song’, Picking Up The Pieces, allows her to relax a little more into a home-run of catchy anthems including Upside Down and Can’t Rely on You, and while the audience are by now firmly on their feet, she continues to lead the party, ultimately dancing on top of the grand piano in the encore number Freedom.

Paloma Faith with backing trio © Mark Allan
Paloma Faith with backing trio
© Mark Allan
The UV Collective, Faith’s fantastic backing trio, Guy Barker, his orchestra and most of all a wiggling, shiggling audience were fully on board for a cabaret of unrelenting fun and entertainment. This was an evening of emotive lyrics and theatrical delivery, of Pharrell-produced beats and classic jazz arrangements, of little girl coyness and cheeky sexiness: in every way a perfect contradiction.