A tour de force from an utterly distinctive voice...
Jamie T

There's many sides to Jamie T.

There's the street urchin, out for trouble. The lovelorn troubadour charming the object of his affection. The songwriter rooted in a locality - Wimbledon - and drawing absolute inspiration from this. There's the universal voice, cutting across boundaries.

Tonight, he presents another side to his character. Taking over the gorgeous Hackney Empire venue for a special stripped down set, Jamie T demonstrates both the flexibility of his work to date and his willingness to subvert any label placed in his way.

Arriving onstage in a dapper shirt and suit jacket ensemble, the songwriter immediately seats himself front and centre. Lighting is subtle and not obtrusive, lending a classic ambiance to the evening which is stylised but not too formal.

Opening with 'St Christopher' from his 2009 EP 'Sticks N Stones' the singer was backed by just guitar and piano. Endearingly simple, it seems to accentuate the vocal delivery and wordplay - “He's a Machiavellian in a rebellion” indeed.

A set drawing primarily on deep cuts, rarities and unheard material, the performance seemed to supply an inverted view of Jamie T. Fan favourites were jettisoned, but the crowd clearly enjoyed being challenged, hearing something they wouldn't normally be presented with. 'Smile Senorita' was, the artist charmingly recalls, penned after a drunken conversation about the Spanish Civil War, while 'Planning Spontaneity' saw Jamie T joined by a string quartet.

Subtle and supple, the songwriter seems increasingly at ease following each song, throwing in a few deft remarks and vocal shifts along the way. New track 'Whiskey And Wine' is - as Jamie T disarmingly admits - half-finished, but the looseness only seems to underline it's quiet poetry.

Ending with a storming one-two of 'Sticks N Stones' and 'Emily's Heart' the songwriter departs with a chirpy wave, before relenting for a quickfire encore. Even here, Jamie T refuses to buckle from the concept - blasting through a cover of Billy Bragg's 'New England' (a highlight of his early sets) and the first live airing of 'Fox News'.

It's an odd concert to assess. Willfully disregarding some of the undoubted highlights of his own catalogue, Jamie T somewhat perversely underlines his own significance. Amid a swatch of voices eager to fall in line with the crowd, the Wimbledon artist has managed to stand out by observing and critiquing the crowd itself.

He's a modern Shane MacGowan reflecting the bar room visions of (early) Tom Waits. He's a brattish Billy Bragg, an indie kid Ray Davies. However you define it, he's Jamie T.

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