JAMES BLUNT + Sarah Blasko @ Café Campus

By Trevor Kiernander - Ones and Zeroes - 10/31/2005

Please take this review with a grain of salt, as I am fully aware of the star power that this artist has recently garnered...

Recently I had the opportunity to see yet another ‘buzz’ artist whose buzz I hadn’t previously caught, James Blunt. I’ll chalk it up to being ridiculously busy for the last year and a half, but I don’t often get to hear new music or at least a great deal of it. So when the Blunt show dropped in my lap and I was like “James what? Blunt who?”, I figured I’d better start the research. I checked out his site which was ‘pretty’ and I had the joy of watching his "You’re Beautiful" video. It was at this point -- coupled with the ‘anonymous’ remark that Blunt was like Antony if he were really David Gray -- that I felt I was going to dread the evening. Supposedly he is huge across the pond in the UK, but watching "You’re Beautiful", I couldn’t tell if he was serious or taking the piss out of the singer/songwriter genre; now that I am back from the show, I am still rather skeptical.

The sold-out show at Café Campus opened with Sarah Blasko. I unfortunately only caught her last song but from what I heard, it angered me that I didn’t get there sooner. Although her voice is similar to that tired throaty female vocals thing (does that make sense to anyone? I would rather not mention other artists), she definitely penetrated the room and there wasn’t a whisper from anyone. I ended up forgoing beer to grab the CD (which was a staggering $20!!! I was wondering if the bar took a cut). Blasko was fresh off a tour with Martha Wainwright, which was rather fitting. Be sure to keep an eye on her.

Now for the Bluntster. I had my doubting cynical coat on that evening, so being made to wait for a simple guitar/keyboard set-up was kinda driving me nuts (especially since at that point, I was still torn between drinking or buying Blasko’s CD, and part of me was worried I would throw my empty bottles if things got worse). He finally ventured on stage with his “bitch” Paul, to huge roars of applause. Am I that far removed from pop music? Should I give up painting and listen to commercial radio day-in day-out? His first three songs had something to do with his shoulder, or a shoulder, or someone’s shoulder, I’m not quite sure as I found myself paying more attention to the crew beside me.

I’d like to take a moment to give some shout-outs to the jock posse that nearly named all the songs out loud as the first few bars were played. You guys were soooo close! I was rooting for you, but you can’t win ‘em all. Perhaps at the next John Mayer show. Way to go champs! Be sure to bone up on your singing though, it’s rather distracting when you don’t know the words or the notes.

Anyway, I’m not quite sure if I would consider Blunt to be the embodiment of Antony as Gray, but quite possibly Cat Stevens as John Mayer. I found his lyrics to be quite simple and predictable, somewhat flakey, but yet I could see how he was attracting the masses. The tunes were rather catchy and he has the acoustic singer/songwriter look down pat. I’m willing to bet that maybe six or seven years earlier, I could see myself being into Blunt, but with so much intelligent music out there, I think you get my point. I mean, I really like artists such as Damien Rice, but I couldn’t wrap myself around Blunt. Perhaps this is the equivalent of high and low art, and what is exceptional and what is kitsch. I don’t know.

Perhaps I am being a little harsh, as he wasn’t all that terrible, sometimes even funny. His rendition of the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind" was refreshing (and kudos to the jockos for picking up on that one too! You guys!) but with the set closer "You’re Beautiful", I just pictured the video of him taking off his clothes and had to leave.

All in all, I guess I could give him a 6 out of 10. But if I were going to suggest singer/ songwriters, there are far too many to even begin to list that would most probably be a far better use of your time. But I am me...

[Tune in to Ones And Zeroes every Monday from 10am to noon.]