Tuesday, January 10, 2006

An Evening with Jamie Cullum

What a superb evening! There is no other way to describe a concert by the charismatic, energetic, absolutely delightful, and oh-so-tiny Jamie Cullum.
It was also an entirely unexpected pleasure. I had only just heard of Jamie Cullum before tonight, and certainly didn’t expect to be going to see him play live. Fab, a Swiss friend of mine, ‘phoned me last night at about 6.30pm saying that he had a ticket for a concert with the small, English Jazz pianist but no-one to go with, and would I like to come. I, of course, said that I would be delighted to accompany him.
Thus it was that we made our way to the Paris Olympia in the 9th Arrondissement, just along the road from the grand, neo-classical Eglise de la Madeleine. After consuming what was, by virtue of its manufacture, possibly the slowest crêpe I have ever witnessed being cooked (by a chap who seemed to think that the utmost care is needed over the presentation of what was, to us, just a quick snack), we made our way past the ticket touts and those distributing unwanted leaflets into the Olympia. The oldest music hall in Paris has played host to such stars as Edith Piaf, Jimmy Hendrix and The Beatles, and it was certainly a fitting setting for an excellent concert. Tastefully decorated, almost exclusively in red, the hall itself was down a very long corridor and through a lobby; although there was an extensive balcony, we were standing on the ground floor, with several hundred others.
The warm-up act was an enthusiastic but somewhat samey Spanish-style act, with most of the songs in English. Whilst the stage was re-arranged, there followed a period of time which was – retrospectively – long enough to get a drink, which would have been most welcome later, when the hall began to heat up as the audience became more excited and physically active. When Cullum and his very able band finally came on, the audience were ready to be entertained, and we were not going to be disappointed.
Fab and I were standing about 40 feet from the stage on the left-hand side, with a very good view of Jamie’s hands as he sat (or more often, stood) at the piano. During the first couple of numbers, it very quickly dawned on me that this was possibly the coolest person with whom I had ever had the pleasure of sharing the same room. As someone who has dabbled with the ivories, I could appreciate that the amazing technical ability that this young man possessed was far beyond that which I could dream of. Apart from this, his stage presence was overflowing. An excellent showman, one was always wondering “what will he do next?” while being entertained with brilliant music drawn from a broad church. Jamie had a decent go at speaking French (“Bonsoir Paris. Je vais jouer une chanson pour vous”), albeit in a (deliberate?) comic English accent. It transpires that he had spent several months in Paris, his favourite city. I was particularly pleased to see him play a tribute to his second-favourite city, London. My personal ranking is as yet undecided.
I shalln’t bore you with descriptions of individual songs; you had to be there. Purists may argue that he plays jazz for the lazy, or that his lyrics are meaningless. I am not a music critic, but I think that I will be putting Jamie Cullum on my next shopping list. If he is the future of music, then I remain optimistic. The only pity was that I couldn’t put him in my pocket and take him home with me.


At 3:21 AM, Blogger Anne said...

I was also at the same gig! I really enjoyed this one, he played at the Folie Bergere last month and we managed to get backstage!
Like your writing BTW:)

At 10:37 AM, Anonymous cindy said...

looks awesome!

I just got this new desktop thing: http://www.netvibes.com/ I've added the feed from your blog so I see when you update! cool huh!


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