James Blunt, Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow

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The Independent Culture

Even in a world of manufactured pop idols, you could not make Blunt up. If his freakish career switch is extraordinary, his massive slow-burn success is a genuine phenomenon - Blunt's debut album, Back to Bedlam, stealthily scaled the charts when nobody was looking, to knock the mighty Coldplay off their No 1 eyrie.

Now, from the opening song, "Billy", it is his startling vocals - sharp edged, growling - which count. The sound is much starker than the soft-rock, multi-layered production values of the album, and songs which seemed insipid there have a commanding edge in concert. "Goodbye My Lover", about loneliness and loss, has the audience listening with a yearning reverence I have rarely witnessed in the normally raucous Barrowland atmosphere. As the climactic "You're Beautiful", his breakthrough No 1 single, rings out, Blunt's seductive appeal is imprinted on every female face.

But as opposed to the new breed of wistful, gratingly self-important male singer-songwriters, Blunt joked about his "miserablist tendencies" and proved he could be playful and touching. Yet in the bright light of last week's TV Dylan-fest, I yearn for a touch of grit from this former soldier, who allows so little of his world experiences to filter into his songs.

It is unfair to compare with the incomparable - but on the strength of tonight's triumphant, strangely uplifting show, there is little doubt that Blunt has the voice of a star in the making.

James Blunt plays The Octagon, Sheffield, Thursday; The Philharmonic, Liverpool, Friday; Leeds University, Saturday; Manchester Academy, Sunday; Shepherds Bush Empire, 11 to 13 October. Touring to 21 October