James Blunt – Brighton Centre – 24th November 2017

James Blunt
Photo by Ben Walker

The man himself, a 00s superstar, turned meme, turned back into musician, James Blunt has certainly had quite the career. After well over a decade of being in the public light, when this artist plays Brighton’s largest venue, it’s definitely an interesting night, to say the least.

Upon entering the show, I wasn’t expecting a sat down performance. I’ve always found that seated shows create nothing but unnecessary awkwardness as the crowd feel too embarrassed to relax into the music, and those who do choose to stand just block the views of those around them. In a room as packed as big as this, the issue is only magnified a thousand times and caused so much unnecessary commotion, it dampened the entire evening before it had even started.

Tonight’s opener is Jamie Lawson, one of Ed Sheeran’s fresh acts signed to Gingerbread Man Records. With such a prestigious label backing him, you’d expect Jamie’s set to live up to his hype. No such luck. Granted his vocals are excellent and you can certainly see why he’s gained Ed’s support but, honestly, it’s as though he’s playing his first ever show. The tedious awkwardness during song intervals are just horrifying, you can almost hear individual conversations from halfway across the venue. The lack of passion or movement is just lacklustre, even during his relatively upbeat hit single ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’, Jamie has the potential to move about the stage a little, but apparently standing in a static position is far cooler (it definitely isn’t). I was genuinely more entertained by my overpriced packet of peanuts I brought at the bar than this support.

Now surely the only way is up? As Blunt walks onto the stage, the crowd all stand up from their seats and are all eager to witness James as he opens with ‘Heart To Heart’, actually a great opening track, performed with infinitely more energy than Jamie demonstrated in his entire stage time. It’s rather strange seeing a man whose main relevance in today’s climate is his whimsical tweets but, as the song comes to a close, James’ sense of humour definitely shines forth. A bit like an over caricatured cartoon character, he’s the single most jittery performer I’ve ever seen, speaking faster than the speed of sound and telling the audience to stay on their feet for the set, turning the pointless chairs into nothing more than a health hazard if anything.

As the set finds its feet and gets rolling, a few of the classics are rolled out. ‘Wisemen’ and ‘Goodbye My Lover’ both make early appearances and are where the crowd seems to be the most engaged. This being said, James’ newer material such as ‘Heartbeat’ is also met well and, whilst doesn’t have the same level of nostalgic lovability as those from Back to Bedlam, they seems to go down relatively well with the crowd. As a persona, James is definitely eye catching, his set does maintain a solid level of crowd interaction and motion and his sense of humour does drive the show along nicely, keeping at least a nicely relaxed atmosphere to the room.

Another name drop of Ed Sheeran shows its face as James mentions how a portion of his tour was spent supporting him. This was perhaps the worst possible name to drop though as, when ‘Lose My Number’ is played, it feels like nothing more than a complete rip off of Ed’s ‘Shape Of You’ only with the signature James Blunt dismal lyricism. From a corporate perspective, James is a fantastic songwriter, he’s certainly mastered the art of creating material which everyone who’s ever felt ANY emotion will relate and engage with, which say as you will, does take some level of talent.

Tonight ends on a high with ‘Bonfire Heart’ and made for a surprisingly colourful climax to the evening. The folky tone to the song sees the room on their feet once more and singing along in unison, leaving a suitably warming feeling. Overall, though, a night with James Blunt is exactly what you’d expect a night with James Blunt to be like. A room full of those who can justify the £40 minimum price tag to hear a few tracks which still maintain some credibility in today’s musical world. I won’t say that I had a bad time at this show but, with so many fresh rising artists around on the scene today who are putting on fantastic performances and revolutionising genres, James Blunt comes no way near close. Maybe you’re a fan of James’ witty tweets and cynicism, I know I am too, but perhaps that’s where this washed up artist should stay.

Ben Walker

Website: jamesblunt.com
Facebook: facebook.com/jamesblunt
Twitter: twitter.com/jamesblunt