Lewis Capaldi is trying not to choke to death on confetti. One song into the first night of a gargantuan world tour and the confetti cannons have gone off, showering the audience at Leeds arena in small strips of white paper. “Cause I’m not ready,” he splutters, “to find out you know how to forget me.” It’s not the most dignified start but, then, Capaldi never did seem too concerned about that.
Capaldi is the UK music industry’s golden boy. A blend of charisma, candour and a vocal range similar to that of Adele led to a handful of Brit Awards, a Grammy nomination and sold-out arena tours. He shrugs off critics or else comes back at them with impish glee. After Noel Gallagher described his music as “wank”, Capaldi walked onto the Other Stage at Glastonbury wearing a parka and a T-shirt with the Oasis star’s face inside a heart symbol. He’s very hard to hate.
There’s a palpable Nineties boyband vibe tonight, not just because of the bra that gets flung onstage (Capaldi tries it on for size). While the stage itself is free of props, a giant screen ripples and blazes with colour – before the show, a Bon Iver-style autotune of him singing his new album title is played. The Scottish singer leans into the schmaltz of singles such as opener “Forget Me” from his forthcoming album, with its propulsive drumbeats and his own galvanising holler. He’s clad in white denim; his band are on raised platforms behind him in matching outfits. “We’re wearing white suits because we’re all virgins,” the 26-year-old tells the crowd. As always, the gig is half music, half comedy.
Several of the songs on tonight’s setlist have never been played before. Capaldi is currently preparing to release Broken By Desire to Be Heavenly Sent, the follow-up to his record-breaking, tongue-twisting 2019 debut Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent. New tracks make the most of his voice – gravel swirling inside a glass of whisky – with the exception of saccharine ballad “Pointless”, which has co-writer Ed Sheeran’s fingerprints all over it. “I bring her coffee in the morning,” Capaldi croons, “She brings me inner peace/ I take her out to fancy restaurants/ She takes the sadness out of me.” A mug of Nescafe is a raw deal for making your partner “a better man”, if you ask me. He seems aware of this too, admitting: “I f***ing hate those first two lines.”
“How I Feeling Now” from the forthcoming record tackles mental health struggles with lyrical frankness: “No sense of self, but self-obsessed/ I’m always stuck inside my f***ing head.” On the plaintive “Fade”, he pairs references to his hometown of Glasgow with an ambitious, Don Henley-indebted Eighties soundscape. A fight breaks out between two fans, bizarrely, after “Lost On You”, a forlorn piano-based number about seeing an ex-partner with someone else. “Who won?” Capaldi asks.
Later, he overcomes vertigo from a platform suspended 20 feet above the ground (“I’m s***ing myself”), as he delivers a dizzying falsetto for early single “Bruises”. A second burst of confetti arrives amid the vocal gymnastics of “Grace”, 2018’s top 10 hit, but it’s “Someone You Loved”, his emotionally fraught breakthrough hit of the following year, that closes the show. You’d think the joke-cracking would wear thin after time; that Capaldi’s fans would want him to take those heartfelt songs more seriously. But his self-effacing charm is half the fun. And no one does it as well as him.