Jamiroquai, 02 Arena, London
Thursday 21 April 2011
Jay Kay, the big-hatted funkstar and multi-million record selling lead singer of Jamiroquai, may have released his lowest-selling album to date in Rock Dust Light Star, but his trusted formula of rock, funk and touch of acid-jazz still packs out the 02 Arena, London's biggest venue, with ease.
The funky frontman is full of vigour as he leaps onto the stage, gyrating like a crazed Native American in his trademark feather headdress. And no, he hasn't, it seems, seen fit to invest any part of his reported £40m fortune in new headgear. But with a bounce he kicks off his glitterball and funk-filled stage extravaganza with the title track of his latest album, and soon has the cavernous venue dancing in the aisles and bouncing across the dance floor to his back catalogue of pop hits and club classics.
Kay after all isn't short of a hit or two. He's been at the top of charts for almost 20 years, and still knows how to work a crowd. Now 42, and touring the world, ostensibly to promote his seventh (but somewhat mediocre) studio album, the so called "cat in the hat" still sports wacky headgear, slick footwork and Stevie Wonder-like vocals. But years of parties and fast-living have clearly taken their toll. By the second track, his ragged and sweaty face clearly betraying his hedonistic lifestyle, but thankfully with "Main Vain", the bass really kicks in and Kay manages to slip into his groove.
"Cosmic Girl" sees Kay, with seemingly effortless cool, strut and slide across the stage, before a more sedate run of newer tracks, including an overly drawn-out "Smoke and Mirrors", gives him the chance to catch his breath. And while he pops off stage to execute a quick outfit change – he dons an oversized and wide-brimmed white hat, lime-green trimmed tracksuit and bright trainers to replace his cowboy get-up – his fans are left to enjoy the soft melodies and funky bass of his excellent 11-piece band.
The familiar chimes and subtle wah-wah boogie of "Canned Heat" signal the start of a crowd-pleasing parade of old favourites including a menacing "Deeper Underground", a rendition of "Space Cowboy", which makes clapping in unison actually seem cool and a "Love Foolosophy", which sends the crown twisting and turning en masse towards their pop idol.
A pop idol who, clearly, still has it. Diving across the crowd and joking as an excited fan's knickers are propelled onto the stage, it's obvious that Jay Kay hasn't really changed with age. But neither have Jamiroquai changed musically. Today, they're essentially still offering the same formula they did in 1993 at the height of the short-live acid-jazz wave.
Critics may sneer at Jamiroquai for this and at Kay for his mainstream appeal – he performed to an almost exclusively white thirty-and-forty-something crowd – but the fans don't seem to mind. And despite the long jams and so-so new material, few break for the exits. Kay's electric stage presence, a collection of dance-floor favourites, some nifty footwork and a truly talented team of bass and backing singers are enough to keep the 23,000-seater venue dancing and jiving until the final funk-filled beat.
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