James Blunt, Brixton Academy, London
Way beyond the call of talent
Sunday 26 February 2006
But duty calls, and so, after a few Germaine Greers to stiffen my resolve for the pony-and-trap in store, it's up the apples-and-pears of Brixton Academy to watch a proper James Blunt.
Let's rewind. Back in the summer of '05, this upper-class ex-military 28-year-old (Harrow, Sandhurst) toppled Crazy Frog from the number one spot with "You're Beautiful", a sappy acoustic ballad about how his life is brilliant because he's seen someone he fancies on the tube, sung in a trapped-testicles falsetto.
Since then, he's become the subject of mild hysteria among Daily Mail England. He ticks the boxes of the Andy McNab-reading blokes (served in Kosovo) and the uniform-loving ladies (guarded the Queen Mum's coffin while in the Household Cavalry) alike. His album, the none-more-bland Back To Bedlam, has been in the top 10 ever since.
So, on a cold wet day in February, thousands of devotees have been queuing up since mid-afternoon to touch the hem of Blunt's beat-up black army surplus shirt. Their hero - the unshaven, shaggy-haired rebel - plays Back To Bedlam in its entirety, plus a new song called "Same Mistake" (he forgets the lyrics), a craftily-chosen cover of Slade's "Coz I Luv You" (audience singalong time) and a slaughter of Pixies' "Where Is My Mind", before ending with the Big Hit. They throw roses. They swoon. They even sob, during "No Bravery", the Balkan war song which proves that first-hand experience doesn't guarantee an enlightening account.
So, when you remember that the Brits deemed Blunt a better solo artist than Antony (of The Johnsons) and a better pop act than Madonna, you can only shrug and reflect that Weller was right all along: the public gets what the public wants.
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