Man! If I could figure out how to just get a little hit of that whenever I’m feeling down or just need a boost energy, I’d be just fine!
No, I’m not talking about some new energy drink or other stimulant, nor about alcohol, or any legal or illicit drug. I am talking about the way out felt walking out of the Jamie Cullum concert at the House of Blues in Boston last night! Sure, the man’s put out records, and I have got them all. I’m a fan, after all. But let’s be honest, none of those records, not even the live recordings, come close to capturing what it’s actually like to see him live. He brings everything to a show: style, showmanship, spontaneity, talent, and technical precision… But all in just the right measure.
I have friends who dismiss Jamie Cullum because he occasionally rides close to the top of the pop charts in the UK, and because teen magazines there tend to fawn over him. First off, I think they overestimate his appeal to teenagers. And while those similar elitist tendencies can flare in me too, the truth is that you can be popular and be brilliant, and just because your charming, endearing and popular with a teen demographic doesn’t necessarily mean everything you do caters to that group. Jamie Cullum just doesn’t make the right kind of music to really be a teen idol. Make no mistake about it, the man is a consummate jazz artist whose work can compete with any of the others. His set last night was mix of standards (maybe 1/3) and original compositions (about 2/3), but all were performed with his own unique spin on them. He performs with an incredible band of multitasking multi-instrumentalists that should probably be paid overtime just for having to keep up with him! For example, I’m curious if ability to play trumpet, drums and to do whatever he was doing on the computer for a while was a requirement for the position of guitarist, or was he just lucky to find a guitarist who could do all those things?
But then again, Jamie himself is the hardest working one of all. He’s more kinetic that a young Mick Jagger, drumming, running across the stage, and jumping up onto and down from his piano, into the air, and even down into the audience to sing a song. In that desire to connect with the audience, and in his never waning energy level he really reminded me of Bruce Springsteen. But where Bruce Springsteen would sometimes bring audience members to dance on the stage, Jamie did something I’ve never seen an artist do before, except with people they knew, and in small “jam sessions.”
During an instrumental interlude, in the middle of a song, Jamie made a few comments about Boston being a major musical center that’s loaded with talent, and then then he asked if anyone in the audience knew how to play piano. In what I’m pretty sure was a totally unplanned, unrehearsed moment, he brought two young men from the audience, instructed them to improvise in the key of F, took his seat on the electric keyboards, and let them go to town on his grand piano! They were good, the crowd went wild, and so to Jamie!
It was clear, not just then, but throughout the evening, that the crowd at the House of Blues that night loved hime. It was also pretty clear from his banter, and from the way he responded when the crowd sang along to “All at Sea,” that Jamie really enjoys playing for the Boston crowd.
It felt healing. I was only half joking in the opening paragraph of this piece. Let me tell you what I was thinking yesterday afternoon. It had been a long, busy, tiring weekend without a lot of leisure time. I was looking ahead to today, knowing that I had a very early appointment followed by a full day at work. I’d get in late and have no chance to sleep late either. I was seriously thinking about selling my ticket and just staying home to watch Game of Thrones. It was the memory of Jamie’s last concert at the House of Blues that convinced me to go. I had had crappy seats for that one, way up in the balcony. House of Blues is a decent venue as long as you’re not on the balcony. I remember very clearly that every time I tried to move to get a better view, I got told I was standing in a place where I shouldn’t be, but for some reason no one who stood in front of me was ever told to move.
Still, I remember that Jamie was pretty awesome in concert, and I was determined that if he ever came back I’d see the show with better seats. Now he was here, I had tickets in hand, and I convinced myself to go, telling myself, you can always leave early if you get too tired. By the time Jamie got around to his cover of “Please Don’t Stop the Music,” that was all I was thinking. They could’ve played all night.
Here now some images of a truly amazing evening.