It’s not often that you’ve planned a journey to another country to go to a concert and before you’ve booked your flights or accommodation, you get another tour thrown in your face. So there we are, preparing our trip to Cardiff, when Jamie T returns to the face of the earth. Where did he come from? Where did he go? And most important of all: will we ever know?
Jamie doesn’t come back alone, though. He brings a fresh new record, Carry On The Grudge, and goes touring in the UK and mainland Europe as if nothing had happened between his disappearance in 2010 and now.
And how convenient is it that Jamie T decides to kick off this very first tour in 4 years in Bristol on October 30, one day before we’re supposed to be in Cardiff that’s only one hour by train from the English city? Very, we decide.
I haven’t crossed that many country borders in a day (Germany-England-Wales-England-Wales) than I have on this Thursday going on Friday, but it was worth it. Every single second of it.
Now, the O2 Academy in Bristol is located in a side street from the busy centre, and as queue-friendly Germans, we were surprised to find only 20-30 people surrounding the entrance. And we even got cute food-themed business cards from the support act Slaves that promised us a free download of their single “Hey”.
While in most venues, you’d have a pretty big standing area on the ground and maybe a balcony, the O2 Academy will have none of that. You can maybe fit 15 rows of people in front of the pretty broad stage. All others will have to stand on the surrounding stairs that lead to the bar in the back or to a balcony.
That said, we still managed to have decent places at the barrier, so we could enjoy the show to the fullest. And we weren’t disappointed: having heard absolutely nothing from support act Slaves before (even though they’d played on Later With Jools Holland only weeks before), I had no expectations whatsoever. Did I expect to have two lads taking the stage that kind of looked like two chavs who were forced into formal wear? Not really. Did I expect them to blow me away with the most aggressive, yet energetic mix of pure English punk guitar shredding, easy-to-learn chants with a Kent accent and a stomping drum beat going straight to the heart? Definitely not at all. I don’t think I’ve ever been that entertained by a support act I’d known absolutely zero about before the gig. Laurie and Isaac didn’t only warm up the crowd, their garage punk basically heated everyone up so much that we needed to calm down again in the break between Slaves’ and Jamie T’s set. You really don’t need more than a guitar and half a drum kit to make amazing music. I’m not saying Isaac is any good at singing, but Eddie Argos isn’t either and Art Brut still managed to put out a lot of albums. That being said, the lyrics play into this a lot, too, of course. There’s songs that deal with the love-hate-relationship with the capital’s underground system (Cheer Up London), a horror story about not finding your date’s car in the middle of the night (Where Is Your Car, Debbie?), a lesson about not trusting flies because they might be government spies (Sugar Coated Bitter Truth) and a 15-second-yell about street fights in new shoes (Girl Fight).
In short: You will be severely entertained by these Kent boys in ill-fitting suits that write their Facebook updates in ALL CAPS. I wouldn’t have expected anything else from them, to be honest.
Finally it was time for Jamie T to take the stage. It was the first night of a proper tour after four years for the singer-songwriter from Wimbledon and the crowd went wild when he went onstage after his new band mates.
He opened his set with the rather quiet and melodic Limits Lie which is also the opener song of his new album Carry On The Grudge. The next song was the first single of that album, Don’t You Find, which brought out massive sing-alongs from the crowd despite it being a slower song. With the third song, Operation, Jamie T fulfilled the audience’s not so secret wish for a song of his first albums and was rewarded with a jumping and singing crowd. The energy was very high throughout the whole set even though Jamie T played almost every song of his new album, all of which didn’t get as much interaction from the crowd as his old ones.
Towards the end of his 20 song long set, he shrugged off his denim jacket and spoiled his ever so enthusiastic fans with with a tight packet of his biggest hits, such as Emily’s Heart, British Intelligence, and If You Got The Money.
During the set the multi-instrumentalist switched briskly between electric and acoustic guitar, even bringing out the bass guitar for Back in the Game or simply rapping without an instrument on 386.
The singer’s interactions with the crowd were limited but still there. His mumblings were not always understandable for the non native English speaker but that’s exactly what you expect from Jamie T. The longest talk he had with the audience was when he apologised for having a song with a Ukulele in it. But the fans didn’t care, as Spider’s Web was one of their favourites.
One of my personal favourites was The Prophet. The lyrics are very typical Jamie T, observing problems in our society but not being able to do something about it.
The last song before the encore was They Told Me It Rained, a rather anti-climatic ending to his hot and fast second part of his setlist. Nevertheless, it gave the crowd the chance to mobilise their last strengths for what was yet to come.
After a very short break Jamie and the boys and gal (thumbs up for the super awesome girl drummer!) entered the stage again and plunged right into Zombie. And when this song was followed by Jamie T’s indie dancefloor anthem Sticks’n’Stones, absolutely everyone in the O2 Academy was on their feet, jumping and singing long. It was definitely the highlight of the set. The only thing that left the crowd unsatisfied was the absence of Sheila in the setlist.
The thing with Jamie T’s music and live performance is, that he can do whatever the fuck he wants and it’s always fucking brilliant. Where else do you have a single lad on stage bursting out songs with his acoustic bass guitar in one song and then deliver one of the biggest indie dance floor anthems with his band in the next? While his older songs obviously got heavier responses, the new ones are definitely on their way to manifest themselves in the fans’ hearts and some of them are already there. Don’t You Find got a massive sing-along, which added up to the emotional feeling of this song and Zombie is so catchy it could become the next Sticks’ n’ Stones.
The best part of the concert, which completed the brilliant gig, was the fact that the man himself, Jamie T, was enjoying himself on stage.
It’s good to have you back, man.
Download Slaves’ single ‘HEY’ at http://youareallslaves.com/