Jamie T + The Holidays @ Candy’s Apartment, (09/05/07)

Tuesday night and that ever-so-alluring underground cubbyhole, Candy’s Apartment – is smoking and seething. People pack the floor and sweat under Candy’s lusty pink lights. Wimbledon whiz-kid Jamie T is in tonight, wisely snapping up an opportunity to slot in a few low-key gigs in Oz while we’re all going crazy for If You Got The Money.

As the sold-out crowd floods in, a young dude with a moppish Indie ‘cut and a leather jacket fronts the stage, and we’re introduced to The Holidays.

The Holidays are a trendy Britpop imitation band, with little to distinguish them from the wannabe Franz Ferdinands and Arctic Monkeys of the world – but they do what they do very well, with a tight and engaging-if-a-little-too-familiar sound, a singer with a very capable, perfectly-suited vocal quality and a bass player who’s got the New Wave-vacant-stare-thing down to a tee. They mightn’t be the most imaginative choice for a Jamie T opener but for an Aussie band they get the Brit-shtick mood flowing nicely, and they do sound good live.

On the subject of Brit-shtick, when you’ve got Jamie T playing in Kings Cross, you can expect a healthy English contingent in the crowd, and that they’ll be understandably excited …and drunk… is a given, but the self-proclaimed “Wimbledon Crew” in Candy’s tonight are more than a little overbearing and I doubt it’s just your humble reviewer who feels this way.

Jamie T arrives with nought but an acoustic bass guitar in hand and baseball cap on head. He quietly takes a seat behind the mic and there’s something immediately likeable about him. He opens with a cover. It’s Billy Bragg’s New England – sparse, lonely and lovely. The Wimbledon Crew start going mad.

Jamie T has a band, The Pacemakers, but this time he’s opted to go solo. His songs are raw, grubby, poignant and humorous snapshots of urban life, and with his lazily nuanced hip-hop phrasing, dripping with the South London gab, he’s actually surprisingly suited to this intimate style of performance. The problem is, as he tells his tales of drunken drivellers, two bit thugs and boys in the city, I’m trying to imagine I’m at a private poetry reading – just Jamie, picking and strumming his bass, his unique voice carrying the songs to profound and affecting new heights.

It’s almost like that. Except for the Wimbledon Crew.

Jamie plays Sheila and beer flies, voices bellow and bodies lurch, leap and stumble. These ‘rudeboys’ evidently aren’t sure whether they’re at a karaoke bar or the worst hardcore show anyone has ever been to. A cover of The Clash (naturally a big influence on Jamie) – White Man In Hammersmith Palais momentarily shuts them up, but with them constantly drowning out songs like Calm Down Dearest and Back In The Game, you have to wonder whether this has anything to do with the whole set lasting a mere 45 minutes. Granted, he explained at the start of the show his lack of a band meant he couldn’t play the Panic Prevention album in its entirety, but 45 minutes is pretty disappointing.

“Sorry it’s so short,” he shrugs.

It’s a shame, because despite Jamie seeming a little nonplussed by the whole deal, he sang passionately all the same, his voice in fine form – especially on a stirring rendition of Salvador, which he dedicated to all the Pommy couch-potatoes burned by the BBC because it’s just axed Neighbours. Cut short in its prime, I’m sure.

So, brevity and a bunch of liquored-up Londoners let the night down a little, but I came away with an even bigger appreciation for Jamie T all the same.

His voice sounds even better live, and he has the rare ability to keep you constantly riveted with only 4 strings to accompany him. That said, he has promised to come back with a full band, and that should be the business. He’s got a bunch of fun songs that are worthy of a sing-a-long (rather than a shouting match) and with a few more musos fleshing his sound out he should keep those rowdy London lads happy and be loud enough for the rest of us to bask in his brilliance too.