Jamie T, Electric Ballroom, London
Diamond geezer's rough passages
Monday 29 June 2009
The return of Jamie T heralds one of the most anticipated records set to come out this year. With Panic Prevention, his 2007 debut LP, he became one of those rare creatures – loved by the public for his cheeky charismatic image and sing-along songs, he was also recognised by the critics, as shown by his Mercury Prize nomination
The appeal of the guy is understandable; the album, with its tales of London, was a melting pot of British influences, combining the street-wise style of acts such as Lily Allen and Mike Skinner with the grittiness of the Arctic Monkeys and the sheer ramshackle joy of the Libertines.
There is one thing, though that divides people – Jamie's rapping style, an often unintelligible, heavily accented south London drawl, which some argue might not be the natural speaking style for a public- school educated young man from Wimbledon. Then again, he's hardly the first person to be accused of dropping his "aitches" for a bit of credibility.
Certainly, it does not bother those who pack out the Electric Ballroom. Those who have managed to buy tickets get their reward with an opening consisting of two tracks from Panic Prevention. Unfortunately, technical problems plague "Operation" – which sees Jamie flinging himself into the crowd, but "So Lonely Was the Ballad" fares better.
"So who wants to hear a new song then?" is normally the signal to head for the bar, but after a wait of nearly two-and-a-half years the crowd is eager to hear what Jamie has up his sleeve. Another bout of technical gremlins means they have to wait a bit longer, but Jamie is such a charismatic chap the audience don't seem to mind, as he touchingly regales them with news of a new baby in the family.
When they do start "Earth, Wind and Fire", it proves a tad underwhelming. It has the familiar rapped verses, but the chorus is disappointing, and it all feels a bit, well, ordinary. Similarly, "Spider's Web" fails to lodge in the mind. Of course, it is far too early to tell, but the songs debuted tonight are not exactly bursting with promise for the release of Kings and Queens later this summer.
One thing that doesn't help is the band. Part of Jamie's appeal has always been the DIY feel of his music, with Panic Prevention sounding like it was recorded on the cheap. Live, this is taken to extremes. There is no real reason why this shouldn't work, as the Libertines and countless others have shown that you don't need to be classically trained musicians to put on a good show.
Jamie's band the Pacemakers have undoubted charisma, but despite this they feel decidedly amateurish, leaving many of the songs weak and underwhelming. Even "Sheila" – which is still the night's highlight and a fantastic song – never really takes off, which is a pretty hard feat to pull off considering 99 per cent have been waiting all night to sing along with it. You could perhaps forgive this blip if it was at the start of the tour, but this is supposed to be the triumphant last night.
At the end of an encore including a cover of The Silencers' "Policeman", Jamie finishes off with new single "Sticks 'n' Stones". It is a great comeback song with a huge chorus, but on record it also sounds over-polished, certainly when compared to how they play it live. Jamie T will undoubtedly have better nights, but he needs to bring a touch of that polish into his live shows, while also making sure that on record he maintains the anarchic spirit of his debut.
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