Review: Jamie Cullum, Usher Hall

Published Date: 10 May 2010
By Ray Philp

JAMIE Cullum’s marketing men have a lot to answer for. All too ready to feed the Londoner’s oeuvre through a meat grinder of middlebrow neo-swing – see Michael Bublé – such pejorative associations do Cullum’s manifold talents a disservice. Worse stiADVERTISEMENT ll, it gives the impression that Cullum’s catalogue is a bit naff; something that seeks refuge on your mum’s coffee table.

Cullum himself seems determined to dispel such ideas, and thus launches straight into a nonchalant reconstruction of ringtone pop temptress Rihanna’s Don’t Stop The Music to great effect. Taken from his latest long-player The Pursuit – an album that makes fewer concessions to the singer-songwriter millstone that he seems, figuratively and literally, stifled by (he condemns his blazer, tie and shirt to the floor at various stages) – such selections strike a judicious balance between Cullum’s throwback appeal and experimental instincts, the latter of which prove most rewarding.

Music Is Through’s house tempo shows Cullum at his most daring stylistically, echoing some of Laurent Garnier’s best work. Similarly, Love For Sale is a playful number that allows Cullum to showcase his beatboxing skills while also dropping a subliminal Roots Manuva reference. Most rousing of all, though, is his cover of Cry Me A River; all pregnant pauses and swollen crescendos, an exhilarating rendition is made all the more impressive as he, along with the rest of the band, wanders into the crowd to perform it – a lovely moment.

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Still, it’s the oldies that glean the most audible noises of appreciation: a wonderfully gritty, cello-assisted rendition of I Get A Kick Out Of You and the bee-bop swing of Twentysomething – a song that remains his enduring ident – are both suffused with his trademark off-the-cuff energy.

In short, Cullum not only plays to the gallery effectively, but equally, he also manages to scratch his itch for subversion and mischief (“I prefer edge from an audience, so please feel free to throw pants”). Turns out that mums do know best.


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