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Jamie Cullum Review

London Jazz Special

Review: Jamie Cullum, The Shepherds Bush Empire
Tuesday, 9 March 2004

I'd been looking forward to this one for quite a while. Jamie's music isn't my normal bag but having witnessed several spell-binding TV appearances I was intrigued to see how the 24 year old lounge-jazz wizard would work a live crowd close up.

His performance was remarkably assured for one so young. As a musician he undoubtedly possesses a rare talent, be it banging away at the piano or strumming his acoustic guitar. His real gift though is his stagecraft. Having learnt his trade working his way across the lounge bars of Europe Jamie has developed a natural, enthusiastic and knowing ability to perform. Whether it be old standards like What A Difference A Day Makes or his own
material from debut album Pointless Nostalgic and the recent
Twentysomething, his capacity to work a thrilling interpretation through deft arrangements is a delight.

Sadly though for all his undoubted talent to work an audience Jamie's mission fell flat at The Shepherds Bush Empire. How could this be you ask? Quite simply this was the most odious gathering of gits I have had ever the misfortune to share a night with.

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Picture the scene. We're stood near the bar looking down toward the stage. Jamie and the band are movin' and groovin'. Average guy goes to the bar to buy average girlfriend a drink. "Two beers please." To which pretentious gits one and two and their friends pretentious gits number three to ten chant in a spine chilling chorus: "SSSHHH!!!" And it gets worse. Regular looking guy stood next to me is really getting into Jamie. It's welling up inside him and he just can't help himself. He blurts out "Nice." To which
pretentious gits number eleven to twenty chant: "SSSHHH!!!" Maybe I'm missing the point here. Perhaps I'm not present to enjoy a rising young talent and have a few drinks. No, I should be participating in a collective 'How to be a sad pretentious git and chant SSSHHH!!! at appropriate moments' game.

The whole thing came to a head when it was time for an encore at the end. The normal folk did the decent thing and clapped and hollared for the obligatory encore. The sad pretentious crowd tutted at this noise disturbance and duly drifted away. Jamie came back on stage and played just one song to the emptying crowd. A sad end to a great performance. As a one time Smiths fan I think I have finally understood one of Morrissey's most bizarre proclamations. After the break up of the band the
Manchester Bard declared he didn't want any Smiths fans to buy his records. He'd moved on and they hadn't so please, please let him get what he wants. A fresh start.

Maybe it's a consequence of fusing jazz with pop but Jamie, I urge you, take a leaf out of the daffodil man's book, fix an appointment on prime time TV and issue this warning. "Anyone attending my gigs in a purple velvet jacket with a penchant for the 'SSSHHH!!!' word will be taken out and defrocked".

- Peter Clee