ROCK / Young, gifted and white

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The Independent Culture
THE LAST time Jamiroquai played in London was in a small, sold-out club. It was not a complete success. So booking them in at the Town & Country seems a little ambitious. In the event it leads to what is known in dancing circles as a roadblock. You can't move for nightclub cognoscenti in crisp polyester.

The man they've come to see is a skinny, 22-year-old white boy called Jay, in a hat which consists of two bearskins caught in the act of reproduction. He bunny-hops about with total disregard for social convention - imagine if Blue Peter's Peter Duncan thought he was James Brown. He also sings, with a highish soul whoop that is reminiscent of Stevie Wonder and - but don't let this put you off - of Hue and Cry's Pat Kane.

The band are large and loose, but in a disciplined sort of way. One of the brass section is called Ralph. They play rambling jazz-fusion in the Gil Scott-Heron style, which only once lapses into unrestrained self-indulgence. The songs, many of them just finished, occasionally lack structure, but always have a melodic spring in their step.

This is by far the largest crowd Jay has played to, but he takes to it with an embarrassment of ease. 'I can see 50 people I know in the first four rows,' he proclaims, and it doesn't sound like showing off. Even after a full hour and a half, he is reluctant to leave. The didgeridoo wobble which underscores the courtly fake-string arrangement on the debut single 'When You Gonna Learn?' goes beyond the normal powers of human endurance, but Jay's enjoyment is such that people seem quite happy for him to carry on all night. Black and white alike seem susceptible to his geeky allure, and Jamiroquai could be set to skate over clubland divisions with a grace not seen since Soul II Soul in their prime.

Muscleman, tattoo-canvas, stormtrooper of existential dread, and now stand-up comedian - Henry Rollins, this is your life. The former lead singer of revered LA punks Black Flag is already as a man of many personae - a combat-clad menace to respectable society who appears in Gap ads to fund his esoteric publishing company. Boxed Life (Imago), a two-hour record, captures his latest and oddest incarnation, as a digressing raconteur in the tradition of Ronnie Corbett.

The idea takes some getting used to. 'I write to document decay and erosion and oncoming death,' Rollins explains on next Wednesday's Late Show, and he's not kidding. But he does have a lighter side, and it does not suffer as you might think from the absence of his scary physique. The knotted brow, the exploding torso, the bar-code on the back of his neck are all summoned up by the curve of his voice.

His material is part voyage of discovery through his blasted psychological landscape, part acid commentary on the rock' n' roll life. Sometimes the two merge, as in his definition of depression - the feeling that the first six Black Sabbath albums are all playing in your head at once. Some of it could do with more brutal editing, but much is pretty funny. He starts a national tour on 29 Jan.