Photo: Itar-Tass / Scanpix
James Blunt had his minions enthralled in Tallinn's Nokia Concert Hall on September 28. But he failed to convince the reviewer.
James Blunt’s street cred is, how shall we say, not the best. He is sometimes referred to disdainfully with the British pejorative for a less than manly fellow: slang for a female body part that rhymes with his name. The smash hit from his debut album of 2005, “You’re Beautiful” set the template. This was wussy rock for the lovelorn and overweight; the musical equivalent of romance novels.
It is true that it is hard to defend a song about falling in “love” with a woman glimpsed on public transit or whatever “You’re Beautiful” was about, but it did make him rich and famous which most of his detractors are not. It sets the mind to wondering. Maybe there is more to James Blunt than meets the eye.
Well there isn’t. And yet there is too. Blunt and his five piece band made their way to Tallinn’s Nokia Concert Hall Thursday night and gave in all likelihood a fairly representative display of what he and his music are about.
First impressions of Blunt weren’t helped by arriving on stage thirty-five minutes late. During the long wait the concert hall was filled with the very un-Blunt like sounds of AC-DC and Steppenwolf on the over head. When Blunt and the band finally showed, they took the stage to music from Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns. Was Blunt countering his wimp rock image with some machismo?
Not so much. Blunt played Blunt as only Blunt can. Weepy numbers in minor keys on similar themes dominated the set. For a man who has enjoyed so much success and lives in a villa in Ibiza, he’s awfully maudlin. But herein lays the secret of James Blunt. Like a poet he expresses the inexpressible - what others feel but cannot articulate. Sometimes people feel down and when they do they have James Blunt to turn to because, well, he’s always down.
The problem with the above formula is that James Blunt really isn’t a poet. He writes catchy, sappy drivel with the depth of a commercial jingle. But I think that Blunt is for real. He genuinely feels those touchy-feely numbers that make up 95 percent of his catalogue. He’s an engaging performer too. The crowd at the Nokia Hall, not surprisingly made up of James Blunt enthusiasts, thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle. His somewhat weird and theatrical stage persona, with lots of Tom Cruise-esque grinning and eye contact had his minions enthralled. The ladies seemed especially taken.
Blunt and his mates have been compared to Coldplay on estrogen. He’s really more like a contemporary version Canadian folky James Taylor. Taylor, coming from a more literate cultural era, of course wrote better songs. But the sentiments resonate. People nowadays, what with multi-tasking, texting, phone apps and stuff, don’t have time to plow the depths of their weepy moments. That’s why James Blunt is there, to do it for them.
Review by Mike Amundsen