REVIEW: Jamie Cullum is “world-class act” at Royal Concert Hall

EVER been stuck at the back of an audience for a concert? Turns out they’re the best seats in the house when you see Jamie Cullum.

Towards the end of a dazzling night, he decamped from the stage and set up his band in the rear aisle of the stalls for an impromptu run-through of Cry Me a River (that’s the jazz standard AND the Justin Timberlake version).

Not the tallest of fellows, Cullum stood on the back of a seat, ditched his microphone and sang ‘unplugged’ to an awestruck, sold-out Royal Concert Hall crowd, while the drummer used the wall as percussion and the brass section mingled with the amazed onlookers. It was that kind of evening.

He gets a lot of flak (jazz hobbit, Mr Sophie Dahl), but Cullum has always been a different force live than he is on record – and knows how to work an audience.

The polite applause at the beginning soon turned into rapturous ovations and crowd participation in full vocal harmonies. He even had the ‘Parky-brigade’ dancing in the aisles.

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Playing without a set-list allows Cullum to make each show unique – and we were treated to a varied selection of jazz standards (What a Difference a Day Made) and his own material (All at Sea, These are the Days) – with a good airing for his new album The Pursuit.

In the same way, he often swapped his traditional grand piano for an electronic organ – or just roamed around the stage with microphone, allowing his first-class accompanists to shine: a solo voice and double-bass performance of I Get a Kick Out of You was stunning.

A moody highlight was Cullum’s reworking of If I Ruled the World, which saw the stage bathed in deep, red light – and his every finger movement on the piano keyboard projected onto a giant TV screen.

He’s on a world tour that’s stretched across Australia, Asia, Europe and now Britain (the crowd were encouraged to throw pants at the stage as the band is running low). The continuous performing has paid off. He’s more than just a class act. He’s a world-class act.

STEVE THORNE

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