James Blunt crowd surfing at the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington.
Last night I travelled back in time to my 14-year-old self, I went to see James Blunt in concert.
I expected a good performance, maybe a few bouncy tunes and a few slow and sad piano ballads but what I got was so much more. There’s more to James Blunt than most would expect. Yes he’s a funny sounding British singer who’s regularly given a hard time for all his songs sounding the same but that’s not something he’s embarrassed about. In fact, the comedy-man is incredibly happy to take on the abuse and prove people wrong in his very entertaining live performance.
He rose to fame in 2004 with the release of his debut album Back to Bedlam. Don’t deny it all you people who now claim to dislike him – I know you all loved his first hit You’re Beautiful, really it’s impossible not to. I was a big fan of that first album back in the day, it was full of great songs and it saw him quickly become a popular man on the music scene. I can’t say I’ve listened to much of his material since then, except for the odd song and radio hits like 1973 and Stay the Night but last night that didn’t matter. All of his songs came to life. Blunt was energetic, even in the slow songs, his audience interaction was as good as it gets, he and his band were obviously having a blast together and the music sounded darn good.
After declaring the Michael Fowler Centre was the ‘dryest’ venue he’d ever played he promised to change that. In no time at all Blunt had the audience, of mostly over 40s couples I might add, flocking out of their seats to dance at the front of the stage or showing off some hilarious dance moves in the upper circle seating. But it got way better than that. Near the end of his set Blunt put his guitar on the ground, went over to the crowd gathered at the stage and with a quick check for reassurance he crowd surfed all the way up the aisle, those still seated quickly jumping up to run and meet him.
This was half the fun of the show. As you may already know if you follow the musician on Twitter, he is a hilarious man. The quick witted Brit humour is something I found myself longing for more of throughout the gig. I was enjoying the music but his rapport with the audience and cheeky gags were brilliant! Blunt once tried to sell his latest tour by advertising it as a comedy show – well he wasn’t lying!
Until last night I’d forgotten just how many good songs James Blunt actually has. The five-time Grammy nominee who’s sold more than 20,000 albums worldwide played hit after hit. The audience favourites like High, Three Wise Men and Goodbye My Lover, were welcomed with rapturous applause and every word was screamed by the audience each chorus. My personal favourite was Same Mistake. The song starts beautifully with soft guitar picking, gentle singing and pretty piano playing before the introduction of an electric guitar and drums builds a stronger quality and Blunts vocals take it up a notch. It was the most chilling tune of the night and as the audience swayed their phone torches high in the air the venue was brought to life.
With a strong backing band and a steady and pitch-perfect voice Blunt rocked the guitar, strummed the ukulele and played the piano with fantastic enthusiasm and technique. The way he held eye contact with people in the crowd made you feel like he was singing straight to you. The songs he played from his new album Moonlanding went down well with the dedicated fans in the crowd. I should note – the whole band was wearing ridiculous astronaut jumpsuits as a hat tip to the album name. I particularly enjoyed the bouncy Satellites to which I found myself bopping and clapping in my seat and the piano ballad Miss America, passionately dedicated to Whitney Houston and the fact people focused on her death too much instead of remembering her magnificent music.
Blunt drew things to a close with his first big hit You’re Beautiful to which he hardly sang because the audience were belting it out as loudly as possible, before finishing with a rocking version of So Long, Jimmy. He was back for an encore of hits starting with upbeat catchy 2010 single Stay the Night, his latest release getting airplay at the moment Bonfire Heart and the final number, the much anticipated 1973. He’d had a costume change and was now wearing a ridiculous jumpsuit that looked somewhat like a green lizard while he danced around the stage like a mad thing.
Granted, I know he’s a sound which doesn’t appeal to everyone but for those who love him last nights show would have been an absolute treat. James Blunt’s performance has officially pushed any doubt I had in his musical abilities from my mind. His songs will be making their way back onto my iPod playlist and I’ll happily await his return to New Zealand.