James Blunt @ Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 22nd February 2011

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We arrive at the Civic as the support act, Wakey-Wakey, are towards the ends of their set. A five-piece outfit who hail from Brooklyn, their line-up includes a violin and a lead vocalist centre-stage on keyboards. Clearly some talent, and very reminiscent of an early Billy Joel. They are well received by the already full venue, which has full seating in the stalls, quite a novelty for a gig at the Civic.

Our passes meant we were supposed to stand in the balcony, but this was full and so we stood downstairs along the wall so we could at least see. However, tonight was obviously also a convention for security and their rules and we were made to move back to the balcony. I did try to explain I was there to do a review and this would be a tad difficult if you can’t see, but sadly it’s hard to reason with stupidity.

The balcony was rammed, and I have to admit, even though I believe the Civic to be the best venue in the Midlands the standing balcony tickets aren’t really a good idea. Had we paid the door-price of £30.13 (which includes the new rise in VAT hence the thirteen pence) then I’d have been well miffed. The view, or rather lack of it, is rubbish.

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At 9.00 the lights go down and the band begin, and then from the back of the stalls walks James Blunt, meeting fans, shaking their hands, and one even steals a kiss. He makes his way to the front of the stage, jumps up, straps a guitar on and we’re off straight into ‘So Far Gone’ from his current album ‘Some Kind of Trouble’ which this tour is promoting. The whole of the stalls are now standing (so would it have made a huge difference for us two extra people to have been down there??).

The stage set is impressive, with bass player and keyboard/percussionist raised above the stage, and higher still centre stage a drum-kit worthy of a metal band, with two big bass drums peering out.

We are promised a mixture of old and new songs and “a couple of miserable ones just to keep me happy”. Throughout the crowd sing along and fill in when he lets them. They reciprocate him well, in that they are mainly middle-aged and middle class. They are also predominantly female. At one point they sing ‘happy birthday’ (he’s 37 today) and a couple of banners wishing the same are hanging over the balcony.

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A stand-out moment is ‘Goodbye My Lover’, a solo version at the piano, which at times you could have heard a pin drop, were it not for the four security staff who decided to stand in the balcony and take pictures of each other on their mobiles and then laugh and shout. Obviously they were bored at the lack of action and punters who require managing or ejecting, and for a concert such as James Blunt I have never seen so many security staff. Perhaps his audience are secret trouble makers??

The security staff shouting and messing about continues throughout the show and their mobiles continue to beep with what could be the loudest text alert sound ever.

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“this is where you can do you best eighties bad dancing” before launching into ‘Superstar’ and indeed someone takes him to his word and performs on the balcony what is hard to put into words. Perhaps she wasn’t just drinking water and this is the reason for tonight’s heavy security presence.
“Londoner’s will tell you they can sing, and Northerners will tell you they can sing well, but what about you? Let me hear you sing” before playing ‘You’re Beautiful’ before another run around the crowd, offering a brief meet and greet to the devoted.

“You really are the sweetest audience, we’ve played seated venues throughout this tour and you’re the only ones to stand throughout”.

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The encore consists of ‘Into The Dark’ a song that “only a few down the front will know” and then ‘Turn Me On’ for the “husbands and boyfriends who’ve been dragged here”. ‘1973’ closes the set and everyone leaves happy.

James Blunt draws various views, but it has to be said he’s good at what he does, and the latest album ‘Some Kind of Trouble’ sees a heavier approach than the ballads of his previous outings.

There’s no doubt he’s a talent, but after the massive success of ‘You’re Beautiful’ I do wonder if his audience will forever be based on fans of that particular track.

Setlist:
So Far Gone
Dangerous
Billy
Wisemen
Carry You Home
These Are the Words
I’ll Take Everything
Out Of My Mind
Goodbye My Lover
No Tears
High
Superstar
Same Mistake
If Time Is All I Have
You’re Beautiful
So Long, Jimmy
I’ll Be Your Man
Stay the Night

Into The Darkness
Turn Me On
1973

Review – Glenn Raybone
Photos – Dave Musson

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