After a bellyaching tour through his early singles, Captain Blunt cranks up the volume and unstiffens his upper lip
Effecting the kind of image overhaul James Blunt has achieved would normally involve a PR team and a stint on Strictly Come Dancing. But he's done it single-handedly, harnessing the power of Twitter to demolish trolls and win over those who'd seen him as a drippy posho. He brings the same moxie to this gig, briskly dispelling the idea that an evening with Captain Blunt, as he introduces himself, begins and ends with You're Beautiful and its tremulous spin-offs.
That said, the first half of the gig, dominated by early singles and his most recent album, Moon Landing, is full of morose bellyaching. Seated at a piano or plucking an acoustic guitar, Blunt makes a soft-rock meal of his love life, with the occasional diversion into someone else's. "For my next miserable song … this is for Whitney Houston," he says of the album track Miss America, a patently sincere but overcooked statement of grief.
Then an internal switch flicks, and the second half is a different thing. The gags start to flow ("There are a lot of boyfriends who've been dragged along tonight," he sympathises. "Sorry, mate!"), his band crank up the rock and the upper lip unstiffens. (To that end, You're Beautiful is dedicated – possibly sardonically – to the Guardian's reviewer.) The elaborate moon-landing visuals, which include Apollo footage from the 1960s and Nasa-style flight suits for Blunt and the band, make much more sense when the music turns expansively stompy. During the elongated last song of the main set, So Long Jimmy, he races through the stalls, slapping palms, as the stage is strafed by orange UFO lights. Back on stage, he finishes by hurtling on to an amp. Blunt may be a posho, but he's hard to dislike.
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