Don’t Stop The Music…

Concerts are kind of like cooking. There are basic ingredients in different quantities. The artists are the meat, and then there are other ingredients – the band, sound, lighting, venue, etc. Sometimes the meat is a bit “off” – which could be anything from low audience interaction, low energy, crap vocals, or drunk or high. Sometimes there isn’t a good balance of spices, which are powerful enough to make a great piece of meat taste like shit.

But then there’s meat, I mean artists, who just have the perfect recipe. One of those artists is Jamie Cullum. If you haven’t heard of him, let me introduce you to his wikipedia page.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him once before Saturday night’s SOLD OUT concert. I’ve been to my fair share of concerts in my life, and like most people there are a few concerts that just blow the others out of the water. I have a very exclusive “Top Concert” list that up until last night had only two concerts on it: Jamie Cullum’s Vancouver ’06 concert (#1) and John Mayer’s Edmonton ‘07 concert (#2). Last night officially bumped John Mayer to third place, although it wasn’t quite good enough to top his last performance. So what is it that makes his concerts so great?

Let’s talk spices – the venue is absolutely perfect for starters. I love watching shows at the Commodore Ballroom, and I wish Edmonton had something similar. It was built in the late 1920’s so it’s Art Deco (which was my favourite design era). And apparently beneath the dance floor lies a horsehair lining…not sure how that changes things but it sure sounds cool. General admission, which was Jamie’s concert, hits capacity at 990 guests and seeing how it was sold out, that’s awesome for him! The sound quality was perfection, it was so great to hear each instrument clearly, without one overpowering the other. And Jamie’s band was great; each got a chance to solo a couple of times and was impressive.

And then the meat portion of my superbly balanced meal… Jamie is absolutely electric on stage. From the moment he walked on, you could feel the energy. He is incredibly charismatic and charming. You can truly tell that he loves his job, which is evident in the way he keeps his concerts so lively. I just love watching him play the piano – this is not your elevator jazz music, this is practically a rock concert. The man is all over the piano, including standing on it. At one point he was even playing the strings of the piano instead of the keys.

He’s also brilliant at arranging. One of my favourite parts was when he merged the jazz standard “Cry Me A River” with Justin Timberlake’s
“Cry Me A River”. I didn’t get a clip of the entire song, but did get video around the halfway point of the song, when he got the crowd to part and Jamie and his brass section came down to the middle of the floor. They had a little solo competition while Jamie sung a cappella, about five feet from where I was standing.

He had a great mix of songs from his new album, which is what he’s on tour to promote, but also songs from his previous two. We got him out for two encores and he ended the night with his cover of “High and Dry” by Radiohead, which was stunningly beautiful. It was only Jamie and the piano and even after singing for two hours, his voice was just as strong as the first song.

Sadly, it was missing some of the spontaneity of his first concert, which is why I ranked him #2 on my list. I started listening to his new album at a really odd time last year, and as I mentioned before about emotions being tied to music and brought up easily, it just felt great (and slightly therapeutic) to see him perform those songs live.

The gauntlet has been thrown…and I’m looking forward to seeing if Muse or John Mayer can bring the perfect recipe to their upcoming shows in Edmonton.

(My blog titles are song titles. Today’s is “Don’t Stop The Music” originally recorded by Rihanna but wonderfully covered by Mr. Jamie Cullum)


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