Jamie T Live

Out on his own, and is all the better for it

Ever since he emerged from the fug of acoustic open mic nights in and around south London to release debut album ‘Panic Prevention’ way back in 2007, Jamie T has worn his influences on the sleeve of his Harrington jacket. And tonight, three years after that album’s stories of a misspent youth attracted legions of fans up and down the country, the music is still as vital as ever.

Jamie has often named Joe Strummer and Elvis Costello as two artists he was particularly affected by, and the snarling, vitriolic performer he has become pays homage to both. In fact, it is not unlikely that a young Jamie T envisioned himself emulating these artists, and becoming celebrated for creating an atmosphere of tense excitement, of the unpredictable, when playing live.

So it is no surprise that plastic pint glasses, shoes, ice cubes and any other suitable missile are flying overhead soon after the doors open to the Friday night Brixton crowd. Added to the expected atmosphere however, is the fact that tonight’s performance is four months overdue (laryngitis forced the cancellation of the whole UK tour in the autumn), ensuring fever pitch is reached well before the end of Chester P’s short support slot.

When the lights finally go down, after what feels like an age, the crowd finds its voice once more as a spotlight follows Jamie onstage where he strums a poignant rendition of ‘St Christopher’. Then the Pacemakers join him and launch into a sped up version of latest single ‘The Man’s Machine’, paving the way for a relentless hour and a half. ‘So Lonely Was The Ballad’ and ‘Salvador’ follow, two of Treays’ oldest tracks, before what is the highlight of the evening. ‘Back In The Game’ (another golden oldie) is Jamie at his best. Alone with the acoustic bass guitar, he slaps away as what sounds like all of south London bellows the lyrics back at him. Despite having included this song, in precisely the same way in every set list he’s ever written, Jamie T is genuinely amazed by the reaction.

Following this, he addresses the crowd for the first time. Apologies are as plentiful and sincere as his gratitude is heartfelt; Treays always has payed special attention to the fans. But the onslaught continues apace as ‘Operation’ and (yet another oldie) ‘Northern Line’ are dusted off, punked up and belted our, both owing much to Jamie’s beloved Rancid.

The encore of ‘Chaka Demus’ and ‘Sticks ‘n’ Stones’, suffers, improbably, from the misplaced airing of ‘Spider’s Web’ immediately before, creating an atmosphere sapping lull. But both, of course, are gobbled up whole.

Before ‘Northern Line’, Jamie invited anyone unhappy with “us playing fucking fast” to leave the building before stalking the stage, climbing the speaker stack, falling off it and ending the song buried somewhere near the bass drum. It is this aspect of his performance that is most changed. Gone is the shyness and the reluctance, in its place is a swaggering, loutish character baiting the front rows with a cocksure arrogance. It is as if he is finally realising that he can make a lasting impact. Granted he is not part of anything as groundbreaking as the 1977 scene, and will probably not scale Strummer’s dizzy heights, but he is very much a vital artist in an age of Simon Cowell driven homogenisation of the industry. Jamie T is out on his own, and is all the better for it.

Words by Ben Homewood

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