James Blunt at the Hammersmith Apollo
If you’d never heard anything by James Blunt other than his divisive breakout single You’re Beautiful, you’d be forgiven for expecting a show from him to be somewhat sombre. If you’re a card-carrying Blunt hater, you’d go a step further and expect it to be downright torturous.
Blunt’s 2014 show, Moon Landing, which takes the title of his latest album, is neither sombre nor torturous. Rather, it’s a gun-blazing, light-flashing, laser-beaming extravaganza with an energy so infectious that it even gets the sceptics dancing.
Having survived a punishing tour schedule for the last 11 months, Blunt landed his spaceship at Hammersmith Apollo on Monday for the final leg. Dressed head to toe in space-style boilersuits (which, he clarified, were not in fact Ghostbusters tributes), Blunt and his band made a tongue-in-cheek entrance to Richard Strauss, pausing for dramatic effect, thereby signalling to the crowd that they were here not just to play music, but to entertain.
Blunt began quietly side-stage on the piano with Face the Sun, which showed that his live voice is basically identical to his recording voice: high-pitched, at times almost trill, with an affected speech that edges close to Sean Connery.
His set quickly gathered momentum, however, and while the whiney tracks are there to stay (love them or hate them), Blunt proved that he is so much more than a broken-heart. Following his opener, he took centre stage and dished out a set of punchier tracks. Some were slow, with a strong rock beat (Billy, Coz I Love You), others more traditionally pop (Smoke Signals, I Really Want You, Satellites), and a special few on a grander scale, which gradually gathered the voices of the crowd until they swelled into epic and uplifting anthems (Heart to Heart, Stay the Night, Bonfire Heart).
Blunt himself is a surprisingly spirited showman, a boyish Pied Piper who’s relentlessly intent on getting everyone dancing. He’s the first to make fun of himself – his height, his high voice, or the fact that some audience members were clearly there against their will. He went on to assure them that he would play “for f***ing hours.”
At times his comedy grated in a way that a little brother’s would, but for the most part you had to be impressed with his enormous ability to dazzle the fans, and simultaneously impress the sceptics.
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Watch the video for Bonfire Heart here: