Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review of Jamie Cullum's Concert
Esplanade Concert Hall
13 April 2010

To repeat my tweet from last night - it was AWESOME!

Everything that could've and should've gone right did exactly that.

The gig was sold out. The audience was enthusiastic but not rowdy. The people seated around me weren't annoying ( a rare occurrence ). I had 2nd row seats and happened to pick a spot that was right in front of the grand piano, so I had an excellent view of Jamie the whole time.
The sound system didn't act up ( except for one instance of microphone feedback which lasted a few seconds ). The acoustics were fantastic!

And Jamie wowed us all with his undeniable talent and effervescent stage presence. Yowzah!

To tell you the truth, I didn't expect to enjoy myself this much. Sure, I have 4 of his 5 albums ( the very first one being out of circulation for eons and thus, unavailable even to diehard fans ), and consider 2005's Catching Tales his best so far.

And to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by his latest release, The Pursuit. ( Perhaps my perspective was clouded by the deluge of new albums on the market at the time; I was rather distracted by John Mayer and Adam Lambert's offerings as well. )
But now that I've heard Jamie perform 6-7 tracks from The Pursuit in a 'live' setting, I am blown away yet again.
The show started very promptly at 7:35pm, and the first thing that struck me was the absence of Geoff Gascoyne and Sebastiaan de Krom - Jamie's stalwart sidekicks from his previous tours.
Instead, 4 young fellows walked on-stage to play the drums, guitars / bass, trumpet and keyboard.
And although I was initially quite disappointed by the absence of the 2 older men, I have to agree that revamping the band was a move in the right direction. The entire vibe was different - more kick-ass, and of course, testosterone-laden ( they're good-looking chaps, which I greatly appreciate :)).
Jamie appeared in a light blue jacket, blue long-sleeved shirt, black tie and greyish jeans, launching into a cover of Rihanna's Don't Stop The Music, which appears on The Pursuit.
Not my favourite track, but the acoustics did their magic, and I was instantly spellbound.
Jamie's vocals were, as always, pitch perfect. The band sounded amazing - every instrument clear as a bell and meshing very nicely. It would only get better as the night progressed!
Having made a list of his repertoire the minute I got home last night, I count 21-22 songs in an almost 2.5-hour period.
From The Pursuit: the Rihanna piece, plus I'm All Over It, Just One Of Those Things, Wheels, Mixtape and If I Ruled The World.
I keep thinking he also performed You And Me Are Gone, but can't be certain. L, if you read this, maybe you can enlighten me?
From Catching Tales: Photograph, Get Your Way, and Mind Trick.
From Twentysomething: These Are The Days, Twentysomething, I Get A Kick Out Of You, Wind Cries Mary, All At Sea, High And Dry, and Frontin'.
Covers: Hoagy Carmichael's I Get Along Without You Very Well, Ray Charles' I Got A Woman, Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River ( plus the original Ella Fitzgerald version ), and a short sampling of Rihanna's Umbrella just before High And Dry.
Short ditty: a hilarious impromptu jam about Jamie feeling good but not looking it, during which he made fun of his ridiculous hair and terrible attire way back when.
Aww, it wasn't THAT bad really. You were young, you got away with it. :D
Magical moments? Too many to count. Compared to his last show in Singapore in June 2006 ( review dated June 16, photos posted on June 18 ), this was soooo much better.
The venue definitely contributed to the overall enjoyment. Jamie has never sounded this good ( this is the 3rd time I'm seeing him - first show was in 2004 at a nightclub at Wisma Atria; sound system was terrible! ), and the entire evening was a wonderful revelation.
He's matured beautifully - his recent marriage has done him a lot of good! - but his trademark fun spirit hasn't dampened one bit. Those high leaps from his Yamaha grand still feature prominently, and his energy level rarely waned, though towards the last half hour, he slowed things down significantly and looked a bit piqued after a few songs.
The most memorable segments:
1) A poignant rendition of If I Ruled The World, a track that I never really liked until I heard him sing it 'live'. He remarked that it's his grandmother's favourite song, and for some reason, that statement really hit me, and I paid close attention to the lyrics ( he describes his version of utopia ) as he belted his heart out.
The result was nothing short of astounding.
2) A loong drawn out rendition of Frontin' - one of my favourite covers from Jamie!
I've heard this 'live' a couple of times before, but he took it to the next level!
Started off with a solo beatbox routine. He walked over to the Rhodes keyboard located centrestage and fiddled with some buttons before we realized he was actually doing an audio recording. Then he began to add layer after layer, returned to the piano, launched into the song proper, and continued jamming for maybe 10 full minutes? At the end, he did the same layering effect, this time with vocals. So it sounded like 3 Jamie Cullums singing with the real person. I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. No kidding. :)
3) Wheels - again, a song I'd never taken notice of until last night.
It's a great pop-rock anthem, but so terribly diluted on the studio recording. So when the concert hall's acoustics gave it a huge boost, this piece soared like a rocket speeding into outer space. I swear I could hear bits of U2 and Coldplay in there. Major goosebumps!
4) Cry Me A River - this is when Jamie, in true form, hopped off-stage and took his band-mates to the back of the hall, to squeals of delight from the audience.
He spent about 10-15 minutes strolling around and climbing onto a wooden partition, singing both the Ella Fitzgerald and Justin Timberlake versions, in an ingenious mash-up medley.
I couldn't see him for most of the segment, but it's a small price to pay for the other 90% of the show, when he was sitting / standing right smack in front of me. :)
5) The one-two punch of Hoagy Carmichael's I Get Along Without You Very Well, followed by Jamie's own composition from The Pursuit, You And Me Are Gone.
Jamie sets this up by saying the next 2 pieces should strike a chord with "anyone who's ever dumped someone, or been dumped by someone, who hates the person they dumped, or hates the person they were dumped by". Hilarious!
Here's a Diana Krall version to give you an idea of what the first song sounds like.
Jamie's performance was exquisite! A stripped-down solo with just his trusty piano, but filled with so much heartfelt longing. I would've blinked back tears but the ecstatic bliss got in the way. :)
The second piece is what Jamie describes as the "nasty" follow-up to its nicer counterpart. He smoothly transitioned from slow ballad to hard jamming, making the floors shake and the walls reverberate. Priceless!
6) His cover of Ray Charles' I Got A Woman - it's become a favourite of mine since Jamie Foxx and John Mayer did their own updates in recent years. This is such a catchy tune but you need lots of attitude to pull it off, and Jamie's got loads of it!
He even added his own impersonation of Ray during the performance, which got the entire concert hall cheering. :D
7) I Get A Kick Out Of You - another one of my top favourites. The last time he was in Singapore, it was a full trio rendition. Yesterday, however, he opted for an acoustic vocals-and-bass version. Bassist Chris Hills stepped forward as the lights dimmed and the rest of the band went backstage, doing a fabulous solo that had us all whooping our approval. Then Jamie reappeared and stood next to Chris, and when he started singing the first verse, I screamed till I went hoarse. Yes indeed, I LOVE this song!
The overall mood from the get-go was just pure exuberance.
Jamie was clearly on a major high, and got only crazier ( in the best possible way ) as the minutes passed.
He swigged from a can of Guinness Stout. He said he could care less about our mobile phones and digital / handphone / video cameras. We were welcome to take as many photos and record whatever we wanted, with his full permission.
Pity I left my camera at home 'cos I had such a terrific view, but then, still pictures wouldn't have done him justice, so it's a good thing his fans have already uploaded videos on YouTube!
Here's the one of his Cry Me A River mash-up. Very fun!
And part of the Frontin' performance, with the beatbox included. Sexy. :)
A few songs into the show, Jamie started feeling hot, so he peeled off his jacket and folded up his sleeves. Not long after, he removed his tie, and apologized to an excited female audience member in the first row who stretched out her arm in an attempt to grab it, telling her, "But it's my favourite one!"
Although I don't think the tie was what she was actually trying to get her hands on, heh!
He shared his thoughts about Singapore - both from 2006 and his current trip. He loves our weather and our food. He thinks the Esplanade concert hall is just "beautiful".
He was so unbelievably upbeat throughout the 2.5 hours, I really lucked out in terms of my seating choice because I basically had "courtside" tickets, to use a basketball game analogy.
While hitting a high note on I'm All Over It, he belted into the mike a little too forcefully, then stopped short before the last word in the line, to everyone's immense amusement. Not sure if it was deliberate, but there were a few other instances later in the show where he made self-deprecating remarks about his vocals, like after one drawn-out falsetto: "Well, that turned out better than I expected ( laughs )"!
After his Cry Me A River mash-up got the audience on their feet and hungry for more, Jamie ended the set with a rousing performance of Mind Trick ( yet another masterpiece from Catching Tales, woohoo! ), inviting those from the back to come to the front and boogie.
As for the encores, he obliged with Wind Cries Mary and All At Sea, before bidding us goodnight in a soft whisper tinged with exhaustion.
When the lights came on and I sat waiting for the crowd to filter out, I almost couldn't believe how sensational Jamie has become. Compared to the 2006 concert, he has improved tremendously - not that he wasn't great to begin with, just that he's gotten THAT much greater.
And even though his stage antics sometimes distract people from the fact that he has a GORGEOUS voice, the fact that he's mellowed somewhat ( plus the wonderful acoustics ) showcased his vocal prowess in all its glory last night.
This guy can REALLY sing. And leaving the covers out of the equation, Jamie is also one helluva talented songwriter.
Last but not least, I so appreciate his decision to perform tracks from his earlier albums and not just The Pursuit alone, which is what many artistes usually do in order to promote sales of their latest releases.
In particular, the best of Twentysomething was thrown into the mix, and it became very obvious that the audience has followed his career for at least a few years, as they applauded and whistled during these classic hits, even singing along word for word when prompted.
It was a wonderful journey down memory lane. Ahhhhh. :)
Little wonder that Jamie's very good friends with my favourite musician, Jason Mraz. My cousin tells me they met at a jazz festival some time back and hit it off immediately. Jamie's listed as Jason's 2nd best friend on MySpace, if I'm not wrong.
Just a small tidbit for you to chew on as I end this lengthy blog entry.
It was a magnificent night that I will never forget, and thank you, Jamie, for blessing us with such a mind-blowing performance! Please come back soon - don't make us wait another 4 years!


Nadiyya said...

"Not long after, he removed his tie, and apologized to an excited female audience member in the first row who stretched out her arm in an attempt to grab it, telling her, "But it's my favourite one!"
Although I don't think the tie was what she was actually trying to get her hands on, heh!"

that was me!!!! and you're right i was just trying to get a handshake hehehe.. although i did get his can of half-drunk guinness in the end! =D

L said...

yeap! he did you and i are gone together with the cover of that other breakup song.

and i love don't stop the music! makes me want to club which i don't even do. haha.

i'm also with you on the pursuit album. listening to it all last week, i only really liked 'if i ruled the world' and 'don't stop the music' but i found myself hearing bits of 'mixtape' and 'you and me are gone' in my head today.

was just thinking that the one song i would have loved to hear live again (only played once in 3 times i've seen him!) is 'but for now'. oh well. i'm super happy he did mind trick and photograph. LOVE mind trick.

sigh, awesome concert. hopefully he doesn't make us wait 4 years again.

Uni said...

seeing as like, this is one of your more lengthier blog entries yet on a single subject, u must really have enjoyed urself terribly, cousin. darn! when i watched the vids this morning, first thought was-EVERYONE was filming him. second thought-damn, he can sing, as good as, or even better than mraz. third thought-he truly is such an unpredictible and entertaining performer. I am not a fan of his songs, but now, i will make it a point to start being into them and following his career. if u could send me the songs for his 2nd album? it'd be awesome. i really have a lot to catch up ;)

PS: the fact that he performed pop covers and many songs from his previous albums really gets him into my good books. i so agree with u, that he does not care so much abt publicity as for his fans. i haven't seen mraz done these things that jamie did before in Singapore: have an autograph session, openly declare fans to video his concerts, and yes, throw in a hellava substantial amount of songs from his older albums and heck, even EPs. Oh yes, and getting down from the stage to get closer to the audience.

PPS: how was your encounter with him?? it was at the post-autograph session i assume?

spacefan said...

Hi Nadiyya, can't believe you read my blog entry haha!

So what're you going to do with the half can of Guinness Stout? I'm sure someone on eBay wants it if you don't. Should get it vacuum-sealed. :)

I would've loved to hear Jamie sing Not While I'm Around ( from Sweeney Todd ) or Music Is Through, both from The Pursuit.

But there're just too many great Jamie songs to choose from, and I'm happy enough that he performed so many of the ones I already love, and made me love the others even more.

And btw, if you read my other entry from July 2004 when I watched him for the very first time, I also had a rather similar moment where I stretched out my arm to shake his hand, and he obliged. Made my entire year, that one! :)

Nadiyya said...

i was trawling twitter desperate for more jamie and found your post! =D

i drank the rest of the guinness hehe, but the can is still with me and i'll definitely keep it, i don't know about vacuum-packing though!

i'm soooo annoyed that they didn't have any tour merchandise on sale!!

spacefan said...

And btw, cousin, the meet-and-greet with Jamie was in 2006. I didn't stay for the autograph session on Tuesday because of the huge crowd. The M&G in '06 only had 15-20 people, and we got to chat with him more. :)

L said...

music is through! yes, that was the other one i liked.. dang it

Chas said...

hey spaceyfan, long time! been away from here for a few years, but back now... and it seems you still watch too much tv! haha

have only caught up as far back as the start of this year though, but already i can see, shockingly for a tv expert such as yourself, a simple schoolboy error: you use cucirca, when you should be using alluc...

spacefan said...

Hey Chas, sorry I had to edit your comment so my name wouldn't appear.

Was hooked on TV, then got addicted to online on-demand TV, now stuck on online movies.

It's been too long man. Remind me again where you're from or what you do - I faintly recall you from maybe the SARS era? :)

Faizad said...


I was at the concert too and also enjoyed myself tremendously.

I am wondering if you or any of your blog readers who also went for the concert can enlighten me what was the last song Jamie sang at the concert? The one during the encore segment where the band had left and it was just him on the piano playing a slow, laid-back song.

Would be terribly indebted to you if you have the answers!

Have been asking around but to no avail :(

Thanks in advance.

spacefan said...

Hi Faizad, it was All At Sea, from the Twentysomething album.

And if you're craving more Jamie Cullum 'live', check this out:

Thanks for reading! :)