Celebrating the U.S. release of his latest album, The Pursuit, [which ClubD has had for a couple of months now; thank you, amazon.UK) Jamie Cullum opened his U.S. tour in New York. Much of the set featured songs from this album, which many critics are calling his best to date.
The Pursuit, like his two other studio albums, offers a mix of classic jazz covers, such as Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” and plenty of jazzy originals such as the single, “Wheels.” The 29-year-old jazzy Brit is so talented, one almost forgets where the covers end and the originals begin.
Full of energy and in top vocal form, Cullum put on a fantastic show. One highlight, and a testament to his originality, was his version of “These are the Days” from his first album, Twentysomething. Playing on the Hammond organ, he became infused with the spirit of Ray Charles and began singing “I Got a Woman,” then ended the song with a gospel chant, with the audience singing and clapping, “I feel fine.”
Part of Cullum’s charm, apart from being cheek-pinching adorable, is how well he connects with the audience. He was so in tune with his audience that, at one point, mid-song, without missing a beat, he said “bless you” to an audience member who had sneezed.
He’s chatty, yet unscripted, and utterly genuine. And it’s apparent he seeks your approval. Looking slightly wounded, he said he’d picked up a copy of Time Out-New York to see if the show was advertised. Instead, he found a writer had called him, “a little bit like the annoying aspects of Harry Connick, Jr. and Billy Joel.” The audience groaned in protest but Cullum good-naturedly said he was honored for the comparison, that his music is heavily influenced by both artists. He also cited his respect for Ben Folds, to audience applause.
Truth be told, the only thing Cullum has in common with Billy Joel is that both play piano. Calling Cullum a British Harry Connick, however, is certainly valid. He played “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” in tribute to Connick, who covered the classic back in 1988, recording it with Dr. John.
Another magical moment at this show was Cullum’s descent into the audience with his band for an acoustic “Cry Me a River.” I was already crying myself a river from his lovely solo performance of Gran Torino so was near hysterics by this point. He then closed with a two-song encore from Twentysomething, including the outstanding Hendrix cover, “Wind Cries Mary.”
Opening act Imelda May from Dublin played some funky bluesy rock that complemented the show perfectly.
Jamie’s Set List:
Don’t Stop the Music
Just One of Those Things
If I Ruled the World
These are the Days
Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?
Love Ain’t Gonna Let You Down
I’m All Over It
You And Me Are Gone
Gran Torino (solo)
Cry Me A River (In Audience)
All at Sea
Wind Cries Mary