Isn’t it strange how the nights you’re not overly excited about are always the ones that knock you sideways and imprint strong memories that you know will stay with you forever. Well that is exactly what happened at this gig and god I love it when that happens.
It was a cold….no wait….absolutely chuffing freezing….night in rainy old Birmingham and I set out with pad and pen (I’m old school) in hand for a night at the Academy 2 to see Just Jack. It’s a small and intimate venue that really impressed me. It also made me feel smug — like I was privy to something great that the masses were missing. The other great thing about small gigs is that the queue at the bar is always small- hurrah!
The support came from the overwhelmingly talented and all round fabulous Ed Sheeran. At just 18 Ed displays incredible talent for song writing, musical prose and all round entertaining. He was absolutely mind blowing to see live. The acoustics of the room allowed us to really palpate the strength and quality of his voice. His use of nifty, fun guitar riffs coupled with strong lyrics and songs of honesty and real life created a real feast for the senses. His sound is best described as Indie acoustic with a rather large smattering of pseudo-rap and beat boxing (but with a tinge of folk). This is all delivered on his three quarter guitar and with clever usage of a loop over.
He treated us to six tracks that have stayed in my head ever since. ‘The City’ (written about London) utilised the power of the loop over to suggest he had a small army of singers behind him (ala polyphonic spree but without the gowns!). ‘Loose change’ he wrote one night whilst sleeping outside Buckingham palace. It paid homage to the homeless and clever wordplay kept it light and upbeat “It’s not a homeless life for me, It’s just I’m home less than I’d like to be”. ‘We are’ showcased his immense talent for beat boxing. It had a grainy yet ethereal quality that lifted me right out of Birmingham.
Next was the boldest move for a support act that I have seen in years. He sang a full on folk song called ‘Wayfaring stranger’. Eeshk I though as he put his guitar down, this is support act suicide! But ye gods it was truly spectacular and I do love eating humble music pie. He sang a simple line and looped it over. Then as it played out he went an octave higher each time it repeated with liberal use of sharps to give it a real haunting quality. And then god knows how but he steered it into gentle dance music?! He threw in some quality beat boxing and this little folk song with powerful lyrics was delivered with passion and soul.
His final song ‘You need me, I don’t need you’ is my favourite to date. It’s faster paced than some of his tracks and he even threw in a few lines from 50 cent ‘in da club’ which I loved! And as if this set couldn’t get anymore kickass he got the crowd singing along whilst the roadies joined in with maracas! I caught up with Ed briefly after his show and he told me he’s had an absolute blast on this tour. He also told me that he started out as ‘Nizlopi’s’ guitar technician. It’s like the roadies dream ain’t it!
What more can I say…. he is beautifully talented, original, fun, honest, humorous and clever. I am a huge fan on the back of that gig and urge everyone to check him out at http://www.myspace.com/edsheeran
Jack ‘Just Jack’ Allsopp has been around for longer than you may realise. He has released three albums ‘The Outer Market’ (2002), ‘Overtones’ (2007) and ‘All Night Cinema’ (2009). Each one has eclipsed the last in terms of success and number of singles propelled into the higher echelons of the charts. Jack is a self-proclaimed cheeky chappy, full of southern bravado and a mouth like a sailor (he swears a lot). All these grounded traits make him immensely likeable. Jack had interests in breakdance, electro hip hop, house and DJ-ing from an early age. This explains why his sound is so unique. His tunes are spanking pop/dance tunes that play out into stories by our clever wordsmith. He gives us a variety of styles and influences that punctuate this basic recipe including rap, garage, hip hop and house. But also ear melting melodies, funky hard core basslines, happy little disco beats and crazily catchy chorus riffs. But what keeps all his material from sounding lame or second hand ‘Mike Skinner’ is the depth he reaches. I mean in terms of both his lyrics (discussing relationships and the day to day pressures of life) and his classic ear melting melodies. He is quite the story teller.
Jack was backed by bass and lead guitar, keyboards and female vocals. He kicked off proceedings with ’Writers block’ (track one from ‘Overtones’). It certainly had more oomph to it live and showcased the female vocals from the off. They even threw in some awesome single-double hand clapping fun times for good measure. Full of grins whilst playing a slightly sad song ‘don’t know if I’m glad I came’ they radiated a happy vibe that filled the room with a party atmosphere- not bad for a dreary Wednesday. Being the last night of the tour meant we got the best of them all and man did it work for me!
There was a shock horror moment early on when Jack fell backwards straight on his arse after misjudging the room available on the stage! As he disappeared from my view all I heard was him crashing into the drumkit! Fair play to him- he must have felt like a right berk but he just sat there and carried on talking!
The next track after this little mishap was ‘So wrong’ and the irony of the title was not lost on him as he introduced it with roaring laughter! “If I was still at school I would never hear the end of that”. ‘So wrong’ had a very cheeky quality to it and elevated to a wicked synth riff with maracas combo to finish.
‘I talk too much’ was truly awesome. I really liked the strong raw sound of the guitar that is very different to the album version. It really showcased a beautiful chorus coupled with his subtle tones “Sometimes I don’t say the right things to make you love me even more than you do’.
‘Glory days is a great chilled but solid pop tune. As he sang I was struck by the notion that this guy was born to perform. He literally looked so happy and at home on stage. The crowd entered into hardcore arm waving action with minimal prompting for goodness sake (not me though — too cool!).
At points when he sang in his middle- low range his voice lacked strength. But songs like ‘253’ (real jazzy) affirm that he can really belt out strong vocals. ‘Doctor Doctor’ is a tune and a half. It has a stonking lively beat with drums/keyboard backing. Everyone went mental to this tune including the man on strobe duty! ‘No time’ was preceded by some ‘Uncle Jack’ advice to all those in crap relationships “go home, phone or text and end it because believe me life is just too short”. His big hits ‘Starz in their Eyes’, ‘The day I died’ and to a lesser extent ‘Embers’ heard right at the end capped a bloody great night.
‘Starz in their eyes’ is a great pop/dance tune that laughs in the face of shows like X-factor. That is also what this gig did. It restored my faith in live music and younger gig goers. The youngsters present were very into the music and waxed lyrical in the smoking section about Ed and Jack. This re-affirmed my faith in people, following several weeks of being surrounded by X-Factor shite everywhere I turn.
Academy 2 is a cracking venue and I felt so bloody chuffed to have witnessed this feast of talent from both Jack and Ed. Their music is quite different but then on some levels very similar. They have clearly developed a rapport and mutual respect that seems to extend far beyond the stage.
Well I think I have gushed quite enough for now……to summarise …. awesome venue….awesome REAL music…….awesome talents….awesome night……go see them both……and tell me I’m wrong……which you won’t be able to do….cos they are awesome!