10 May 2010
On the face of it, there should have been far too much in Friday’s epic performance by Jamie Cullum on the first date of his UK tour.
If Cullum is a jazz musician, this is arena jazz, with a lavishly designed set – its backdrop of piano strings introduced by an animation of an exploding piano taken from the cover of his latest album, The Pursuit – and superb live video produced by two of the most unobtrusive cameramen in the world, as well as some fixed units.
The vision-mixing was as impressive as the superb sound. In some ways the last event to try to pull such a range of ideas together in this venue, although entirely different in tone, was the gig by Rufus Wainwright.
The eclecticism of Cullum’s new album was fully explored, but the showstoppers were more from the jazz mainstream, including a duo of vocal and bass pyrotechnics with band member Chris Hill on I get A Kick Out Of You and an R&B work-out channeling the spirit of Ray Charles.
At the end of the evening, long after most of the audience had expected to be on the road home, he led his quintet off the stage to the side of the stalls seating (video-operators still in attendance) for a community singalong of Cry Me A River that was the most interactive event the hall had seen since Bobby McFerrin’s astonishing concert.
Such comparisons might seem ridiculous, but Cullum pulls all these ingredients together through force of puppyish personality, the piano as much prop and plinth as his instrument. At well over two hours long, his performance was a seductive delight and unarguably, superb. showbusiness.
Star rating: *****