Britain has waited a long time for Jamie T to rise from his sickbed. Laryngitis forced this tour's postponement last autumn, just as Jamie (original surname Treays) finally presented his second Top 10 album, Kings & Queens, two years after Panic Prevention's "Calm Down Dearest" and "Sheila" became anthems of the legless classes. This first night back, far north of where London acts normally prosper, shows how nationally treasured his raw home truths are.
It's been tempting to crown Treays and Lily Allen as heads of their post-Britpop generation. But Treays, especially, filters his immediate world through wide-eyed, often pie-eyed personal observation.
He is an open-mouthed, anonymous member of his punk-inclined band, with no special charisma; his intense, literate ordinariness is his pop passport. Fans fervently raise their open hands, not punching but grasping the Kings & Queens songs they're now word-perfect in. "Back in the Game", played solo on acoustic guitar, is greeted like one of Oasis's old national anthems. He dedicates the song to Thin Lizzy, another long-gone people's band, and his splicing of classic rock and youthful, grimy street-sounds is striking. "The Spider's Web" essays slow bluegrass picking from London's deep south, and mentions Gaza Strip kids raining stones on his window. They only want to wake the lazy Wimbledon kid, who combines interest and ignorance of the socio-political world which absorbed his heroes The Clash. Treays speaks to a younger constituency, to whom politics isn't obvious. Injustice and exclusion, though, are constant truths, grasped by Treays' boisterous narratives.
When he encores with "Sheila", he short-circuits every Daily Mail and David Cameron jeremiad about broken Britain. The song is observationally spot-on and emotionally splendid, about the sort of girl whose best mate is "Stella, it gets poured all over her fella". Treays knows this character when the CCTV footage of her vomiting infamy has been replaced by female strength back at home. What he lacks in generation-grabbing force, is compensated for in sympathetic observation. He is too much the Everyman to lead pop music anywhere. But his egoless truth has roused faithful followers.
Touring to 6 February (Jamie-t.com)