Jamie T – Live Review – Leeds O2 Academy
By David Schuster, November 2022
Seeing Jamie T live is a shared experience. There’s a lairy sense of camaraderie; a massive pub singalong, where the long-term fans know all the words, but the newbies can join in with the chorus and the actions by the end of the first verse. There’s also an edge of pantomime, but a very adult one: The chant of “Jamie. Jamie. Jamie f**king T” echoes around the packed Leeds O2 Academy.
He opens the set in relatively low-key style, with ‘Brand New Bass Guitar’, appropriately playing his trademark acoustic bass solo, baseball cap pulled down. During the tongue-in-cheek rockabilly tune, which starts with the inexplicable battle-cry of “F**king croissant!”, the rest of the band slip onstage, and as it finishes, go straight into ‘Operation’. The classic ‘So Lonely Was the Ballad’, completes a great trio of songs from Panic Prevention, which is now — astonishingly — 15 years old.
Track four is from the latest, and critically acclaimed, release, The Theory of Whatever, an album that proves he’s back at the top of his game. ‘90’s Cars’ is a beautiful re-imagining/cover of This Mortal Coil’s take on Big Star’s ‘Kangaroo’ from 1984. Looking around, many of the audience won’t have heard the original or were even born when it was released, but some will. He’s clearly got a broad fan base. It’s very well received for new material, but cannily followed by ‘Rabbit Hole’, one of his most beloved anthems to the dangers of celebrity, drugs and rock ‘n roll, from 2014’s fantastic Carry On the Grudge.
It’s a pattern that forms the template for a clever set, ranging across the singer/songwriter’s extensive back catalogue. It includes several more from Panic Prevention, ‘Spider’s Web’ from Kings & Queens, ‘Dragon Bones’ from Trick, ‘The Old Style Raiders’ from the new release and ‘Don’t You Find’, also from Carry On the Grudge. Throughout all of which crowd engagement remains at fever pitch, and there’s a moment of wry coincidence during ‘Limits Lie’. Whilst Jamie is onstage singing “Who knows where your limit, where your limit lies?”, a guy pushes past me, pretty much carrying his girlfriend, who is too drunk to stand. But they are heading towards the stage, not away from it.
There’s a brief pause whilst the singer introduces guitarist Chris Woodhead, taking the opportunity to make some ribald comments about the tiny instrument he uses for the distinctive sound on ‘Salvador’. Then the performance builds to an ecstatic finale with the singles ‘The Man’s Machine’ and ‘If You Got the Money’. Outside, it’s November, but inside it’s a beer-soaked sauna. As the choruses kick in, plastic glasses arc across the auditorium, sprinkling their contents liberally across the crowd. At least, I hope it’s beer.
There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that there’s going to be an encore, but the crowd oblige with the same chant that started the evening. Inevitably, the encore doesn’t disappoint, it’s all singles, ‘Sheila’, his first hit from back in 2006 and ‘Sticks ‘n’ Stones’. For the latter, he brings on additional guitarist Hugo White, with whom he worked to produce the latest album. Hugo stays on for the final number, the archetypal crowd pleaser, ‘Zombie’. Traditionally this has a theatrical pause at the beginning. However, it turns into an extended hiatus whilst the frontman, concerned for their safety, stops to allow those who have been overcome by the combination of alcohol and pogoing are hauled out to safety. When the performance continues, from exactly the same point in the song, the enthusiasm on and off stage is undimmed. The crowd throw themselves, and the remaining beer, into the jumping, joyful mayhem.
Best gig of 2022 so far.