JAMES BLUNT + WARD THOMAS – BRIGHTON CENTRE 22.02.20
We made our way into Brighton on a wet and windy Saturday for an evening, which is very different from my usual genre of music. I knew the seminal ‘You’re Beautiful’ and ‘1973’, of course but had not delved into a great deal of James Blunt’s extensive catalogue. Well, tonight was definitely full of surprises and all of them made this a totally memorable and emotionally charged gig.
James Blunt, born in 1974 (James Hillier Blount) is a British singer, songwriter, record producer and served as a reconnaissance officer in the Life Guards (a cavalry regiment of the British Army). His debut album ‘Back To Bedlam’, was released in 2004 and immediately made a worldwide impact selling 11 million copies. The album contained two fan favourites ‘You’re Beautiful’ and ‘Goodbye My Love’. ‘Back To Bedlam’ was the best selling album of any artist in the 2000’s in the UK. To date James has sold 23 million records worldwide, won two Brit Awards, two Ivor Novello Awards and 5 Grammy Nominations.
Tonight’s show in Brighton is part of ‘The Once Upon A Mind Tour’, which is the title of James Blunt’s sixth studio album, released on 25 October 2019 through Atlantic Records.
We arrived at the Brighton Centre fairly early and went to find our seats. The staff at the Centre were wonderful – I feel this needs a mention, because the staff showing people to their seats were so friendly and helpful, as were the security and ticket checking team. This was obviously a popular night and I am sure it was a sell out. The audience was a real mix of young and old, which was great to see. Settled into our seats, we awaited the support act ‘Ward Thomas’.
We were all in for a real treat. Ward Thomas have been described as “an English modern country pop duo”. They are twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas and hail locally from Hampshire. Their first album released in 2014 ‘From Where We Stand’, was self published and co-written by both sisters. It reached number 41 on the UK album chart and won UK Album of the Year at the British Country Music Awards, 2014. Their other album releases include ‘Cartwheels’ (2016) and ‘Restless Minds’ (2017).
They entered the stage to a huge cheer from the capacity crowd in the Brighton Centre. I noted that nearly everyone had taken their seats, which is quite unusual for support acts. Their first song was ‘Living Prayer’. This was an a capella version with just the two sisters singing and sounded absolutely amazing. The vocal harmonies were mesmerising. I didn’t think I had heard anything from them before, but it sounded really familiar. The crowd were loving them already. Next up ‘Carry You Home’. This had lyrics with meaning, describing support for a friend in need, then ‘Call Me’. I definitely knew this song. My colleague mentioned that they have a lot of airplay on Radio 2, so that’s where I may have heard it. The whole crowd were loving this including me. I found this song totally up-lifting.
I can definitely see why this duo are being hailed as the best ever British Modern Country Band. Their voices and harmonies are incredible. They told the audience that their mum had told them not to swear on stage, but that didn’t hold them back and it was very amusing. Next up was the title track of their second album ‘Cartwheels’, which brought applause from a large contingent of the audience tonight. The set continued and I found myself really enjoying the performance and being captivated by the synchronicity between the two twins.
‘I Believe In You’ next and it all seemed to be going too quickly, Then ‘No Fooling Me’ and then my personal favourite of the set, which the sisters described to us as “making time to support your friends when they need you ‘Hold Space’”. The set concluded with ‘Landslide’ and ‘One More Goodbye’. To sum up the last 30 minutes is really quite difficult. I wholly enjoyed the performance of these two super talented sisters. As I am writing this I am listening to ‘Cartwheels’ with goosebumps and know that I want to see them on their own headline gig, performing more of their songs. Tonight was a taster for me and I am a convert. Thank you Catherine and Lizzy for a great performance and the wonderful contribution to British music.
Ward Thomas setlist:
‘Living Prayer’, ‘Carry You Home’, ‘Cartwheels’, ‘I Believe In You’, ‘No Fooling Me’, ‘Hold space’, ‘Landslide’, ‘One More Goodbye’.
Ward Thomas are returning to Brighton on May 9th at St George’s Church and I would highly recommend you get your tickets before they sell out! Tickets available HERE.
The main act tonight. The lights went down and the roof lifted off the Brighton Centre as James Blunt ran across the stage with an acoustic guitar. The first song of the set and from the new album ‘How It Feels To Be Alive’ (‘Once Upon A Mind’, 2019) immediately lifted everyone with all those around us singing the words. Wow what a great voice this guy has. I loved it too.
The next one up ‘Smoke Signals’, (‘Moon Landing’, 2013) I hadn’t heard this before but really enjoyed it. The effects on the big screen were spectacular. The sound of the band was spot on. James’s band tonight were; Chris Pemberton (piano, Paul Sayer (lead guitar), John Garrison (bass) and Karl Brazil (drums) and James describes them as “These are the guys I get to play with every night on stage, and travel the world with on tour, They are the nicest bunch of people I could ever wish to have met, and they rock”. They certainly do! The guitar work from Paul Sayer made an immediate impact, with a wow from me. I could see that these guys have that connection, that you know is going to make this extra special. The next one up ‘Smoke Signals’. I hadn’t heard this before but really enjoyed it. The lights and special effects on the big screen were spectacular.
Next up ‘Cold’ (‘Once Upon A Mind’, 2019) and again the visual effect on the screens great, with the lyrics going across for us all to see. The audience in the Brighton Centre were loving this. This performance was great and we were only three songs in!
Next up is a song that I know well and one of my favourites ‘Wisemen’ (‘Back To Bedlam’, 2004). The whole crowd, including us, standing up, singing along and what an atmosphere. Loving this and so was everyone else. Real bands and talent are so awesome. I knew that I had missed out on James Blunt and his obvious talent over the past few years and I will be making up for that.
Next up ‘High’ (‘Back To Bedlam’, 2004). The second song from the debut album performed tonight. I was watching Karl Brazil on the drums and he makes it all look so easy and whilst being incredible. The sound makes this song sound like an anthem and it is.
Next up ‘Champions’,(‘Once Upon A Mind’, 2019)). My first hearing of this song and I loved it. Definitely going to be playing this a lot in the future, boy have I missed out.
Next up ‘Goodbye My Lover’ (‘Back To Bedlam’, 2004). James gave us a really funny intro to this song – he proved himself to be charismatic, humorous and humble. This was definitely a change of tempo with all the crowd singing along to this one. Next up and another great song. ‘The Greatest’, (‘Once Upon A Mind’, 2019) the last track from the new album, followed by ‘I Told You’ (‘Once Upon A Mind’, 2019).
Then came the first surprise of the night hinted by Ward Thomas in their set earlier. James welcomed the sisters back onto the stage for ‘Halfway’, (‘Once Upon A Mind’, 2019) he described it as a duet but with three, with him in the middle. This was a great moment and my colleague had heard this before as it has had a lot of airplay particularly Radio 2.
Next up, ‘Carry You Home’ (‘All The Lost Souls’, 2007), and ‘Postcards’ (‘Moon Landing’, 2013). This saw James playing the ukulele with Paul Sayer and was really good fun with James balancing on one leg sliding across the stage. James explained that in Japan when he performed you are not allowed to ask the crowd to stand or dance, you have to gesture. He said that wasn’t the case tonight, however if it was going to be like a theatre tonight he wouldn’t be performing a certain song. He had earlier told us that Elton John had been his manager and had told him to be a successful live artist you have to get up there and perform your hits. James had then said to him that would be F****d as he would have to perform ‘You’re Beautiful’, 22 times. Not true based on tonight I would say.
‘Stay The Night’ (‘Some Kind Of Trouble’, 2010) followed by the biggest surprise of the whole evening and a total shock to all of us in the audience. James explained about the next song and that he had co-written it with Ed Sheeran. The music started and someone entered the stage from the right. My colleague said “that can’t be Ed Sheeran!”. Oh, yes it was and here’s the proof – click HERE. The audience erupted and were all cheering. I’m sure they heard us all in nearby Eastbourne. It was epic. James and Ed performed the song together for us, which was sublime and one of those special moments you will never ever forget. When the song finished Ed explained that tonight was James Blunt’s 46th birthday and encouraged us to sing happy birthday. We did and then the place erupted once more. Incredible.
We calmed down from the Ed Sheehan surprise and next up the song everyone wanted – ‘You’re Beautiful’ (‘Back To Bedlam’, 2004). The whole place erupted everyone was on their feet singing to a brilliant performance of an anthem from 2004. Just brilliant! The whole band tonight was fantastic, with great bass lines from John Garrison and the piano playing by Chris Pemberton spot on and just wonderful.
Wow, we were all up and dancing and next ‘Same Mistake’ (‘All The Lost Souls’, 2007) had us all singing along. I hadn’t realised what a wonderful voice James has for some of the ballads he has recorded, particularly this one. Next ‘OK’ (‘The Afterlove’, 2017), which is a Robin Schultz song featuring James Blunt. This had all of us up on our feet dancing and marked the end. But then came the encore.
James and the band came back on stage and performed the first encore song ‘Monsters’ (‘Once Upon A Mind’, 2019). James wrote this song about the relationship he had with his father whilst he was dying and wanted him to be able to hear it whilst he was still alive. He also explained that subsequently his father had received a kidney transplant at Southampton Hospital. His father’s name is Charles Blount and he received the liver from a man called Charles Blunt. All the staff from the hospital were in the crowd tonight. The audience went mad with the emotion and the song and the images on the screen made this a very emotional and moving experience for us all.
Next up was the first track from ‘Once Upon A Mind’ ‘The Truth’ – a great song, which had us all back up on our feet and ready for the next one we had all been waiting for. The piano started and we all knew this was ‘1973’ (‘The Lost Souls’, 2007). The whole crowd erupted and were singing and dancing to this one and I reflected on what a brilliant night we were all having.
The set finished with the brilliant ‘Bonfire Heart’ (‘Moon Landing’, 2013) to brilliant effects on the screens above and great applause from a very satisfied audience. All I can say is what a night we all had. James Blunt is a genuine, compassionate and likeable artist. His interaction with the audience made it so personal and fun, especially as he told us he had been practising on the audiences up North so he could give us the perfect show! You most definitely did James Blunt and your brilliant band. We salute you and I for one will be back for more!
James Blunt setlist;
‘Smoke Signals’, ‘Cold’, ‘Wisemen’, ‘High’, ‘Champions’, ‘Goodbye My Lover’, ‘The Greatest’, ‘I Told You’, ‘Halfway With Ward Thomas’, ‘Carry You Home’, ‘I Really Want You’. ‘Postcards’, ‘Stay The Night’, ‘Make Me Better’ (with Ed Sheeran), ‘You’re Beautiful’, ‘Same Mistake’, ‘OK’ (encore) ‘Monsters’, ‘The Truth’,’1973’, ‘Bonfire Heart’.
Further information can be found at www.jamesblunt.com
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