Reviewer: Katherine Kirwin
The pint-sized king of easy-listening jazz stormed the stage at The Lowry last night and demanded to be listened to, showcasing his extraordinary talents, the skills of his band and his ever-changing musical style. From the opening number ‘The Same Things’ – with its strong percussive elements creating a marching band rhythm to his lyrics – Jamie Cullum seemed determined to bring over his audience to the style of his new album. Momentum is Cullum’s fifth album, released a decade after his most well-known album Twentysomething hit the British consciousness, and although rooted in jazz, it has a strong funk edge and hits anthemic highs in several of the songs.
Cullum is a crazy ball of energy on stage, leaping on top of his piano while singing, then hopping over to centre-stage to sing, play the drums and a cowbell simultaneously. It is like watching an over-excited child who just happens to be a musical prodigy, and the audience gets swept along with his enjoyment and passion for his music, smiling at his nuttiness while tapping their toes to the music. The band sped through the first half without stopping for a breath or word between songs. This began to feel a bit self-indulgent after nearly an hour…and then Cullum exploded during ‘Love for Sale’. He leapt into the audience, serenading the front row before running amid the stalls, singing in people’s faces before standing on the seats to serenade the galleries. It was crazy, energetic and strangely brilliant, however the seated (mainly older) audience of The Lowry didn’t really know how to react to this change in atmosphere and so remained seated, nodding their heads.
Following this break, and a subsequent chat with the audience, the second half was captivating, travelling from the low-key beauty of his interpretation of ‘Pure Imagination’, with gorgeous piano improvisation from Cullum, to his well-known covers of ‘Frontin’ and ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music’ during which Cullum not only sang but beatboxed and used hand percussion on his piano. ‘When I Get Famous’ from his new album was a great anthem with a New Orleans vibe, and his band showcased their equally impressive talents. Finally, Cullum asked the audience to come and stand at the edge of the stage and have a boogy to ‘These Are The Days’ and ‘TwentySomething’.
Jamie Cullum is undeniably talented and has assembled a fantastic band of similar talent, and they all take such joy in their craft and music which is transmitted to the audience. Cullum’s voice sounds exactly like his recordings and doesn’t disappoint in his musical performance. Yes, He can seem a bit mental (he himself improv-sang “I think I belong in a mental institution”) but, when he took the time to speak to the audience, his charms redeemed him. Particularly that he gave a nod to the talents of his support act The Lottery Winners (a local BBC Introducing act) an unlikely-looking pop group who were the best support act this reviewer has seen for years.
The theatricality of this tour is brilliant; using lights to showcase each solo and highlight the musical peaks. Furthermore, the use of onstage cinematography, projected onto the back screens brilliantly manipulated the audience’s perceptions of the songs, and really allowed us to see the intricacies of the musicians’ finger-work. Cullum seems to have taken a leaf out of Coldplay’s book and it is working for him so that his stage show delivers as much energy as he does.