So we went, we saw, we listened and it actually wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had been fearing. And I’d been fearing a lot.
James Blunt came onto the stage a distinctly Capetonian 25 minutes late, to what I can only really term as “polite applause”, looking like a slightly rougher, scruffier version of my housemate.
My ex-housemate, that is. Not my current housemate. My current housemate is obviously my wife and she never lets her stubble get that long.
He kicked off with a few pseudo-uptempo efforts, which sounded like they were being played through treacle. Despite the fact that his voice sounds much better in person than on CD, my mind, which I’d fought hard to keep open, closed and I settled myself in for a couple of hours of frustration waiting in vain for something special.
And then, about 3 or 4 songs in, he did something remarkable. He put his guitar down (not in the veterinary sense) and headed pianoward. And there he sat and gave a 2 minute comedy routine about having an orgy with the audience, which left the two 14-year old girls next to us in fits of hopeful giggling, before launching into a jolly version of I’ll Take Everything (Blunt, not the girls).
From the ridiculous to the sublime though as he chucked the rest of the band off stage and weighed in with an unbelievably powerful, emotionally candid rendition of Goodbye, My Lover which gained a proper, old-fashioned, appreciative standing ovation and then moved onto No Bravery, with the backdrop showing footage of shallow graves, burnt out villages and distraught mothers in Kosovo. That shut us all up pretty quickly and it struck me that – like him or not – he’s actually rather good at those haunting, meaningful, heartfelt ballads.
Sadly, it never really reached those heady heights again as he ran through some of the more lively (but sadly, still really treacley) stuff off All The Lost Souls; the only exception being the finale – a pleasing, fresh version of 1973, which sent the audience off home abuzz.
All in all, a good evening’s entertainment with a couple of exceptional tracks, and although it didn’t come close to dislodging Muse from the top of my best live performances – much to my surprise – it would probably be close on the top ten, if only for that 8-minute spell in the middle where he had us all transfixed.
EDIT: Just to clarify – this post tells you why I was there last night.