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concert review: James Blunt Gives ...Beautiful... Concert

Orpheum Perfect Venue for Talented Artist and Lively Performance

By Jillian Berry

James Blunt

Orpheum Theatre

1 Hamilton Pl

Boston, MA 02108

March 18, 2006

James Blunt’s “Back to Bedlam” Tour hit Boston as he played a sold out show at the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday. Blunt may best be known for his debut single “You’re Beautiful,” but his debut album, “Back to Bedlam,” is much more than tragic love songs. Many of the songs reflect his days in the British army as a peacekeeper in Kosovo. No two tracks on the CD are similar, and the style is uniquely Blunt.

The Orpheum is a large theater similar in size to the Wang Theatre or the Boston Opera House, but with a lot less gold leaf and a little more shabbiness. Although the Orpheum will not win any awards for its d cor, it’s a great place for a concert. A little larger than a club, it is still much smaller than a stadium and much more intimate (plus, you get your own seat).

The opening act was a little-known band from the UK called The Boy Least Likely To. Everyone was a little disappointed because we thought Jason Mraz was going to open. Nevertheless, The Boy Least Likely To was not that bad. Their music is an interesting mix of country, rock, and techno, and they added a little British humor between the songs. Considering they came to Boston from Texas at 4:00 a.m., they were very energetic, though quite awkward dancers. The biggest problem with their act was the sound mixing; the bass was very loud, and it was often difficult to hear the lyrics or their comments. Luckily, the staff fixed this problem before Blunt came on.

Blunt opened with “Breathe”, a song not on the “Bedlam” album. The mix between new songs and those on the album was great and made the concert less like listening to a CD at home. After two songs from the album, he decided to “take advantage of the hangovers from St. Patrick’s Day” by playing a “miserable” song, “Goodbye My Lover.” For anyone who has heard the CD, this is arguably one of the best songs (and will be the next single), and it was supposedly recorded on the piano in Carrie Fisher’s bathroom. For the concert, Blunt sang as he played the piano. There was no band, yet there was so much power in his voice he probably didn’t even need a piano. As with all of Blunt’s songs, his voice is a mixture of deep, rough tones and pure, high notes, between which he transitions with ease.

After the “miserable” song, he played a more upbeat song (also not on the album), followed by “Tears and Rain,” a song which he confesses is so high no one can ever sing it correctly. When Blunt started the song, with a hand casually in his pocket, it worked for the song. By simply singing, it all looked effortless, and his amazingly pure voice took center stage.

He played another new song, and then performed “Out of my Mind” from the album. This song is my least favorite from the CD, though it’s still pretty good, and his performance did not change my opinion. The music was fine, but the screen behind him had monkeys with crowns on their heads floating by, just a little disturbing. The audience, however, did not seem to mind, as most sang along.

Next, Blunt sang another “miserable” song, “No Bravery.” If “Goodbye My Lover” is not the best track, then “No Bravery” is. The song recounts his experience as a peacekeeper in Kosovo during the genocide. Again, he performed the song alone while playing the piano accompanied by a video of his time in Kosovo projected onto the screen behind him, making this the most powerful song of the night. His voice made it obvious that he meant what he sang — and so did the moment of silence after the song. To continue with the theme of war, he played another new song called “Same Mistake.” As with the other very powerful songs, he played alone at the beginning, but this time with a guitar. When the band joined in, the stage was filled with fog and spotlights that created a dreamy effect and made me feel like I was watching a movie as opposed to listening to a live concert.

Blunt played two more songs from the album before coming back for an encore: “Where Is My Mind” and “You’re Beautiful.” I actually thought he might not play this song, but it was a great end to the concert. He even let the audience yell “f***ing high” (changed to “flying high” on the radio). By the end, everyone was standing and singing along.

Although there were a few strange notes in a couple of songs, James Blunt was intent on getting the audience excited — he moved around the stage and asked everyone to stand up and have fun. If you are not lucky enough to see him live, at least get the CD, because it is an instant classic that you will listen to over and over again.