A solid performance by a true comedian, but no tune beats the old classics, says Josh Oudendijk.
Most people know James Blunt for one of two things: either his hit track "You're Beautiful", with which he rose to fame, or his ruthless trolling twitter engagements with critics and fans. Once a user questioned why he was "really enjoying James Blunt's new album", prompting the singer-songwriter to respond with: "It's the menopause". It was a relief to see that the true man behind all those self-depreciating comebacks on social media was exactly the same man on stage.
For some years Blunt was under the radar, working on new music for with a team involving record label professionals and even singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, both of whom have been friends for years since their mutual Atlantic Records signing. The latter would receive skiing lessons from Blunt, who would then be offered songwriting suggestions by Sheeran - a lasting friendship until this day.
His latest album "Once Upon a Mind" flirts with EDM and synth-pop, quite a big leap from the alternative rock days of "Back to Bedlam." It may not be a bad idea to stay fresh and hop on the fast-moving pop industry train, but some of the new material sounds too monotonous, camouflaging and drowning itself in the pop charts of this age. But thanks to his lyrical songwriting and personal storytelling there are some quality gems in the track listing.
Tickets remained available at the door on the rainy Thursday, kind of surprising for a songwriter of Blunt's calibre - but corona may well be a good explanation for dwindling concert ticket sales around Europe.
Blunt launched into "How It Feels to Be Alive", a majestic ballad while lights and screens moved up to set the stage for the night. The 46-year-old acknowledged the male audience's bravery for coming along and having to sit through all these heart-break songs, scaring them into "playing five hours" and "making your women cry". While the women went on to shed a tear or two, their partners remained rather stiff throughout, to which James responded: "You, monsieur, get the fuck down" and "come on people, get involved." He knows how to handle the crowd, and his moments of chit-chat were actually a bit of a highlight.
He then turned to the crowd to explain that the idea of "Bonfire Heart" popped into his mind in the back of Rockhal one decade ago, when he was opening for One Republic. "Postcards" was accompanied by a ukulele, and his vocal performance remained solid throughout the night, which was great given the frequent falsetto choruses. Cheeky move to move away from the mic and let the audience choose whether to sing the f-word or its "flying high" alternative in "You're Beautiful", though. "Monsters", an intimate note dedicated to his father, wrapped up a 90 minute show.
The stage is James Blunt's home, he's an entertainer and performer. Now then, careful if you're tweeting about the show, he may just respond straight in your face. That's just what everyone loves about him.