James Blunt @ Arena Birmingham, 21st November, 2017

Who is James Blunt? The question probably brings a slew of differing opinions; some would align Blunt’s identity with his dramatic icy cold music video for smash single “You’re Beautiful.” Others would perhaps turn to Blunt’s sassy Twitter and other social media pages to define his identity. Whatever comes to mind the concept of prolific stage god may not be your first thought and yet as Blunt took to Arena Birmingham stage his dynamic performance altered the fabric of reality proving that while he may be a cheeky provocative human he is also a brilliantly talented artist.

After a quick opening set from newcomers Grafton Ash, James Blunt took to the stage. In a flash of purple lights and a wild torrent of clapping, dance pop tune “Heart to Heart” burst through the speakers.  The high octane song may be departure from the moody sad songs that have typified the perception of Blunt’s work and yet this sort of dance pop is really a stronghold for Blunt and his band. Jazzy rock “I’ll Take Everything” was followed by pop alternative rock “Wiseman.” Between songs James jumps between guitar and piano, joking along with the fans as he transitions between songs.

With “Time of Our Lives” James announces that ‘now that Adele has quit music I am all you have left.’ The joke brings a roar of laughter, displaying Blunt’s humorous ease that continuous throughout the night.  It is this enduring humour that draws fans to Blunt, his cutting wit displayed on social media is playful and enduring, drawing people. It is perhaps the opposite reaction of what Blunt wants, his sarcasm is enduring rather than off putting, but we will never know. After the round of jokes, moody “Heartbeat” breaks through. The song has a rock break that brings an almost outlaw quality to the song.

“Someone Singing Along,” a song written in response to Trump, is a groovy acoustic track that is emotionally stimulated by the apocalyptic background that flashes behind Blunt. Back on piano fan favourite “Goodbye My Lover” is followed by melodic rock “High.” Both songs show the balance between introspective reflective lyrics and light sonic moments, a perfect chord struck between the two, that moves fans to moments of stillness and then moments of monstrous adoration.  Dance oriented “Lose My Number” is followed by poetic “Carry You Home.” Playful island pop “Postcards” finds Blunt pulling out his ukulele. A mixture of nostalgic interludes and playful pop licks, the song is brooding but flirty, a juxtaposition that fans love.

A collaboration with Ed Sheeran, “Make Me Better” is a stripped down simple and sweet song that was written for Blunt’s family. The song is followed by mega hit “You’re Beautiful.” The single is an obvious fan favourite, that shining moment in which every voice joins together like a slightly out of tune choir to sing along with their beloved star.  The angelic tone continues with “Same Mistake” before up-tempo “Bartender” and “OK” round out the set.  The night closes with an encore that includes “Don’t Give Me Those Eyes,” “Stay the Night,” “1973,” and “Bonfire Heart.”

James Blunt and his band have been on tour since June and while they are most certainly a bit tour worn their show was energetic and engaging. Blunt was a stage god, controlling the crowd with a mixture of his humour and musical talent. While he may serve as a controversial figure in the media world, James Blunt was the idealized perfection of a musician, wowing fans with his talent and entertaining in every minute.

Reviewer: Kylie McCormick

Photographer: Stephanie Colledge 

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