Live Review: Jamie Cullum with Imelda May at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 7 March 2010

By on Monday, 8th March 2010 at 2:00 pm

Note: There are no live photos in this review because there were absolutely no cameras allowed at the gig, sorry!

Reading my gig reviews, you could easily make the assumption that I say that every gig is one of the best I’ve ever seen, but I promise you, this has just been a spectacularly good year for gigs! Sunday night I had the pleasure of seeing everyone’s favorite pocket-sized jazz musician, Jamie Cullum, and opener Imelda May at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC. I went into this sold out gig worrying that there was no way it’d live up to my expectations – I’ve been trying and failing to see Jamie Cullum live for about 5 years now, and I wanted it to be something extra special to make up for the fact that I had to miss watching the Oscars to see it. Basically, if it was anywhere short of Jamie’s amazing performance in his ‘Live at Blenheim Palace’ DVD, then I was going to be thoroughly disappointed. Fortunately, both Jamie and Imelda completely blew me away!

Dublin rockabilly songstress Imelda May played a powerful, vibrant 40-minute set to a nearly packed venue, and had everyone dancing along. She has a deep, raspy, soulful voice that captivated the audience, and she seemed to be having a lot of fun up on stage. She played more than 10 songs,  including ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom,’ ‘Big Bad Handsome Man,’ and ‘How High the Moon.’ One of the best parts of her set was her wonderfully cheeky lyrics, like “Count my fingers, one and two / one of them is just for you / Count my fingers, one, two, three / the one in the middle’s to you, from me.” With the backing of her band, including a drummer, electric and acoustic guitarists, and a double bass player, Imelda thoroughly warmed up the crowd for Jamie.

Jamie Cullum is an absolutely fascinating and captivating performer. The energy with which he throws himself completely into his performance is just mesmerizing. He can switch from slow, brooding intensity to manic and impossibly intricate piano solos in the blink of an eye. At the end of his packed 2-hour set, I was amazed that he could still stand, he’d put so much energy into his performance.

As if his music wasn’t captivating enough, he was also hilariously entertaining between songs. In the first non-sung words out of his mouth, he said “Hello, my name is Justin Bieber.” Later he quipped, “Just picture me as Johnny Depp, I’m sure it’s not the 1st time…why are you laughing?” At one point he described the double bass player, Chris Hill, as a monster and said “That man has a fist full of sausages!” – I’m just going to  assume that’s a good thing in Jamie’s world.

But back to the music: not one of the songs got away without a generous helping of improv – I mean, come on, he is a jazz musician, after all. During crowd favorite ‘Frontin’,’ Jamie used the piano as one giant percussion instrument while beatboxing and singing. Even the slower songs like ‘What A Difference A Day Made’ were a big hit with the crowd. We all tried (and failed) to sing along, prompting Cullum to say “It’s hard trying to sing along with a jazz singer, isn’t it?” He had the crowd completely in the palm of his hand, whether he was making them scat along during ‘Wind Cries Mary,’ sing along and jump up and down to ‘Mixtape,’ or listen in complete silence to ‘Gran Torino.’ During the encore, he even convinced the crowd to sing the entire second verse of ‘All At Sea,’ and it sounded gorgeous.

But the indisputable highlight of the show was also its most unexpected. Toward the end of his set, Jamie had the band bring all of their instruments to the front of the stage, and instructed the crowd to part down the middle. The band then launched into Justin Timberlake‘s ‘Cry Me A River,’ and the crowd went mental. Over top of that, Jamie sang the jazz standard ‘Cry Me A River’ off-mic, and then jumped down off the stage with his horn players, and proceeded to sing a capella from the middle of the crowd – simply amazing and completely unexpected. There’s really nobody like Jamie Cullum for genre-bending, mad scientist-type brilliance. This gig will be hard to top!

After the cut: Jamie Cullum Set List!

Jamie Cullum Set List
Don’t Stop the Music (Rihanna Cover)
All Over It Now
Get Your Way
Not While I’m Around (Sweeney Todd Cover)
Just One of Those Things
Frontin’ (Pharrell Williams Cover)
What A Difference A Day Made
We Run Things
Gold Digger(Kanye West Cover)/These Are the Days
Mind Trick
I Get A Kick Out of You
Gran Torino
Cry Me A River (Justin Timberlake Cover)/Cry Me A River(Jazz Standard)
You And Me Are Gone
All At Sea
Wind Cries Mary (Jimi Hendrix Cover)

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