The immensely charismatic Jamie Cullum strolled onto the stage of Heaven in London, full of energy and excitement at performing the first preview gig containing songs from his new album, on April 3rd.
After the impressive support act of Jacob Banks, whose sultry tones reminded me of Frank Ocean mixed with that aura of cool that Weeknd has, I was suitably relaxed for Jamie’s entrance.
What a fool I was! With the calm melody of ‘What a Difference a Day Made’ echoing in my ears, I was brought heavily down to earth with the introduction of new songs ‘The Same Things’ and ‘Edge of Something’. After picking up the drumsticks and instilling a few growls in his notes, I knew there was no messin’. Opening with two songs from his new album certainly instilled eager silence in the audience, who then proceeded to attempt to sing along to the catchy final chorus in their adoration (of which I am definitely guilty).
Following the drum-banging, piano-slamming beginning, Jamie (who is obviously definitely my friend, hence the first name terms) said a charming ‘hello’ to the audience. Exclaiming ‘I’ve had two kids since we last met!’ and announcing his excitement at the prospect of displaying his newest works was met with equal enthusiasm.
It definitely became clear that Jamie Cullum has ventured away from his previous jazztastic persona. On digitalspy, it states that Cullum has said, “The album is about that crossover period from youth into adulthood where you still have one foot in each”. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bold of me to say that this was the impression I got from his musical style too; though much of the new ‘stuff’ seems abundant in instrumentation and contains some alternative tones to his earlier work, there’s no way that his sensational piano-playing and love for his more traditional sounds has been abandoned, (I think).
The darkly seductive ‘Love for $ale’ (Cole Porter) added a new brooding quality to Cullum I was surprised to meet, with my imagination turning him into a modern-day Byronic hero before my very eyes. The unpredictable addition of Laura Mvula on a track named ‘Sad, Sad World’ was also welcome. It was an adroit duet, to which Cullum explained prior to the song that he ‘found her on Twitter’ and asked her to perform with him. Kudos to Laura!
The dedicated fans would have been pleased to hear some of the old favourites, like ‘I’m All Over It,’ his sensational covers of ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ and ‘Frontin’, and what could easily be my university anthem: ”Twentysomething’. Amongst other glimpses of cheeky wit, Jamie changed the line ‘I can’t even separate love from lust’ by replacing the latter word with ‘sex’. Naughty *cue Miranda Hart giggle*
Two tracks that bounced around my head on the train home were the forthcoming ‘When I Get Famous’ and ‘You’re Not the Only One’. He explained that the first was written about a boy from Wiltshire (quote: ‘completely unautobiographical…’) who never got much attention from girls, and this song was wrote to basically say f*** you all! The repeated chorus (‘So Baby, when I get famous, everybody’s gonna say, Woahohohoah, you never really knew me!’) packed a punch, even without the clever or intricate lyrics Jamie usually blesses us with. Though, I cannot say I wasn’t impressed by the verse:
When im looking from the top,
It all seems smaller,
And that’s the one thing I am not,
And that’s the one who is taller.
It’s definitely one for the gym, the car, the casual spotify playlist…the lot.
‘You’re Not the Only One’ came with a lengthy introduction, initially a mildly self-deprecating tale relating to time spent on the Sky show Must be the Music. Jamie explained that the show gave him the idea for a song that was about what it is like trying to make it in the music business and how hard it is. He reminisced on his previous creations of drum kits with bin lids and pans, and explained that ‘it’s all part of the journey’. When working with his brother, Jamie wanted to write an ‘anthem’ (that he admitted started of as a ‘hymn’, then became more like ‘Elton John’), and in turn the pair had to channel their ‘inner Ben Folds’. He played us the mellow piano chords that acted as the roots to the song, before launching into an incredibly heartfelt performance that identified more with the pop genre than his previously smoother jazz tunes.
Beyond the initial allure of Jamie Cullum, there is certainly an added ambiguity to his music which should be applauded. It must be said, though, that it will always be hard to beat the profoundly beautiful ‘Gran Torino’, paired with a delicately-played piano.