Jamie Cullum, with Nerina Pallot
at Audley End House,
Saffron Walden, England
(30 July 2005)

Jamie Cullum is confusing. We don't know whether or not he is a pop star, jazz virtuoso, singer-songwriter or a sizzling combination of all three. Originally labeled as the panacea of jazz, or "jazz's saviour," Jamie has defied all aspects of labeling -- he just loves to play music in an eclectic way -- and play music he does!

Audley End was the perfect venue for Jamie Cullum to reach his usual audience, which ranges from 8 to 80, as the gig was a picnic and fireworks event. Hysterical girls screamed for him as he ripped open his shirt during "The Wind Cries Mary" -- his opening number, choreographed beautifully with each section of the music. The way he annihilated his piano in true rock 'n' roll style would have made Jimi Hendrix smile from above. I love his gyrating and gymnastics onstage, but must admit I did find him a bit more spontaneous when I first saw him last year; this performance was sometimes just a bit too slick.

The tribal bass line provided by the marvelous Geoff Gasocoyne on a gorgeous upright bass started the audience chanting to "20-something" from Jamie's double-platinum album of the same name. The crowd was smoking hot and ready for "What a Difference a Day Makes," which followed.

"It Ain't Necessarily So" was presented deliciously with an outstanding drum solo from Sebastiande Krom, and Sam Wedgewood provided melodic outbursts of trumpet and guitar. A beat box effect was also used during the intro, which provided a real percussive treat. The only disappointing moment for me in a family-friendly audience was a bit of profanity used by Jamie during his "I Get a Kick Out of You" introduction, especially as Nerina Pallot, who supported him, did the completely swear-free version of "Damascus" (probably much to her dismay) in order to maintain a family-friendly environment.

After playing as much jazz as possible, Jamie decided to return to his precious rock music with his rendition of Radiohead's "High & Dry," which I love and think it rivals both Radiohead and Coldplay; however, the true highlights of the evening were "London Skies," Jamie's tribute to his beloved London and its stoic way of handling this summer's terrorist attacks while retaining its dignity throughout. "Photograph" was a rite-of-passage song, which told us of Jamie's first kiss (the girl had to stand on a chair to kiss him). The first was played on guitar, the latter on piano.

"Everlasting Love" ended the 90-minute set with the audience reaching a frenzy level. By that time all I was worried about was how to salvage my picnic basket, tripod chairs and CDs, for all the people who stampeded the vicinity in order to take photos or a glimpse of their idol. I did a quick exit to the spectacular fireworks, which seemed an appropriate climax to the evening -- a metaphor for the explosive Jamie Cullum!

A quick thank you to local girl and vocalist Joanne, who played piano with her band and provided us with her original material as well as jazzy versions of Simon & Garfunkel's "Feelin' Groovy."

Once again, I have to mention the beautiful and talented Nerina Pallot, who this time played her support spot with a full band. I have not seen Nerina with a full band since 2001, so it was just a joy to witness. The set list went like this: "Everybody's Going to War," "Rainbow" (in which we found out her grandmother was originally from Saffron Walden and that she wishes she was a girly girl, but happier as a geek girl in jeans), "Damascus" (clean version), "Idaho" (a few tech problems and hand gestures -- none obscene), "Sophia" (on piano without the band -- it sent chills up my spine), "All Good People" (which was Radio 2's single of the week in August) and "I Wanna Be Your Man," a number that I have never heard and thought might have been the Beatles song of the same name (it wasn't).

Nerina is destined to be a huge star. I said that about KT Tunstall two years ago and was proven right. KT is now nominated for a Mercury Prize (which I predicted) and her debut album has gone platinum. Next stop -- Nerina!

Much to his credit, not only is Jamie Cullum a huge talent himself, he has always supported up-and-coming musicians and featured Lucie Silvas and Tom Baxter on his last U.K. tour.

by Risa Duff
8 October 2005