Back in the Fifties and Sixties, Sunday Night At The Palladium used to offer viewers of newfangled television a smorgasbord of variety: singers, musicians, comedians and novelty acts. For more than two hours, Jamie Cullum, part national treasure, part the national jazz hobbit, wound the clock back.
As wife Sophie Dahl watched from a box, Cullum sang, played the piano, told some ropey jokes (“hello, my name’s Jimmy Tarbuck”) and for novelty he and his band invaded the stalls to merge Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River with Julie London’s song of the same name.
Impressively, Cullum singing without amplification and he did not wilt. Whisper it soft, but Cullum is in danger of becoming cool.
He breezily cruised through both Rihanna’s Don’t Stop The Music and Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary, but the 30-year-old’s new material is outgrowing its jazz-lite roots, hence Mixtape which, in a new twist on the “it’s-all-music” theory, linked Nine Inch Nails and Louis Armstrong to “charm you into bed” and its frenzied climax resembled one of Coldplay’s less restrained finales. We Run Things brooded manfully and his take on If I Ruled The World, gorgeously lit by a sea of reds, added a darker layer to the benign pauper’s daydream.
He’s not the complete artist yet. He fell into the muso trap of allowing a soul-sapping drum solo to blight the confluence of the two Cry Me A Rivers, while covering The Neptunes’ satyr’s manifesto Frontin’ at pointless length was diversity for diversity’s sake. Still, like his Sunday Night At The London Palladium forebears, Cullum knows how to deliver a guaranteed good night.