The sound of several thousand women screaming hits you like a hurricane. A man dressed in tight trousers skips across a stage, white shirt opened up to reveal a smattering of neck jewellery. "Wooo," he says. He stands there, beaming, not flinching in the face of such audible adoration. Soon, the noise becomes an wall of sound. The floor and roof of the Hammersmith Apollo reverberate, slightly embarrassed. "Woo," says the man again. Little does he know, but the navigation equipment of an airplane far above goes wonky and a flock of migrating birds swerves off course. Ladies and gentlemen (well, just ladies, really): Jesus has arrived.
James Morrison is an exercise in how to make a lot of money very fast. He comes across like the kind of guy who could be successful with women if he chose, but is just too damn sensitive. He has a strong rasp of a singing voice, although to compare him to Stevie Wonder, as has happened in the past, is doing him too many favours. He is a more robust Rod Stewart and would probably (although not definitely) get to the final of The X-Factor before Louis Walsh compared him to "a young James Blunt". And then, of course, there is his puppyish persona. He is just the kind of thing your mum would liking petting at the kitchen table. "Woo," he says again, after a few minutes. He pauses, then suddenly seems to find some inspiration: "Hello Hammersmith!"
At this point, Morrison could really be saying anything. He could be singing anything, too. The songs here were taken from both his albums, 2006's Undiscovered and 2008's Songs for You, Truths for Me, which were written with a bevy of writing partners that included Martin Brammer (Lighthouse Family, Tina Turner) and hit-maker Ryan Tedder (Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love", and his own band OneRepublic's "Apologize", one of the songs of last summer). Tedder lending his name to the project is a formidable seal of approval, certainly the best a 24-year-old from Rugby might hope for; and the latest album has now gone platinum.
My personal opinion is that most of Morrison's work lacks any kind of depth; his choruses slip out of the mind as quickly as they enter it; he doesn't have the detached, English charm of Blunt, and anyone this pop can't have soul. "Wooo." But thousands of women continue bursting their lungs.
Morrison begins his performance with "The Only Night" before moving into "Under the Influence" and "Undiscovered". He plays against a simple backdrop emblazoned with his name, which is drawn to one side early on. "Broken Strings", the duet he performed with Nelly Furtado on the Songs For You album, is relayed here with a talented backing singer, Beverley Brown; then it's "Love Is Hard" ("If you don't know that you don't know jack shit"). "If You Don't Want To Love Me" is billed as "one for the guys in the audience" (of which there are quite a few, and not just those dragged along by their girlfriends). This saw Morrison striding around some more, indulging in some enthusiastic fist-pumping. The encore included three songs, "Better Man", "Fix the World Up" and the big hit "Wonderful World", the second single from his first album, which got to No 4 in the charts ("Well I know that it's a wonderful world but I can't feel it right now/ But I thought that I was doing well but I just want to cry now...")
If Take That tickets weren't so hard to come by, most of this audience would probably have gone to see them. As a performance, though, this was pretty much faultless – how can you dispute anything that provokes such a reaction? But should his songs really be winning awards? Probably not. One word: "Woo."