Live Review: Jamie T

15093604753_09b26ba6aa_oJamie Treays (tree-yay) burst onto the London music scene way back in 2004 as a hip-hop, pop and reggae influenced musician of sorts. At a time when the Top 40 was inundated with the likes of Baby Cakes, Cha Cha-Slide and horribly abbreviated FURB (F U Right Back), Jamie T provided an alternative listening experience for those not wanting to gaily “slide to the left” and “one hop this time”. Five years after the release of his last album, Jamie returns to the stage once more.

The crowd in Manchester’s Academy venue, already in an eager state of anticipation after being revved into a frenzy by Royal Blood-esque newcomers Slaves, mill around with pints and question excitedly whether Sheila or Sticks ‘n’ Stones will be Jamie’s final track.

Cue the man himself walking on to the stage of Manchester Academy as if he is clocking in to work in the morning, nonchalant and seemingly inexpressive.

However, as soon as the first few chords of Limits Lie clang out from Jamie’s guitar he becomes an animated soul, revolving round his mike stand as though playing dangling doughnuts at Halloween.

Interspersed with his fresh material are some old classics which Jamie has dusted off and shone to near perfection. If You Got The Money remains a firm favourite, leading us back nostalgically to a time of MSN messenger and Smirnoff Ice. Emily’s Heart is a pleasant relief from the intoxicatingly rowdy atmosphere, with Jamie crooning sweetly into the audience never to “meddle with Emily’s heart”.

The crowd sing in unison with Jamie on the soaring Love Is Only A Heartbeat Away and the scene is reminiscent of a drunken karaoke night with your favourite friends singing your favourite song.

To compare Jamie’s singing to karaoke however, would do the South Londoner a gross disservice. He displays a certain tenderness of tone and finesse of phrasing which is a departure from the likely lad composition of his early work. His fingers skip around on his guitar with a levity and ease born from true musicianship.

There was always the danger that Jamie’s sound, at the risk of being sceptical, would lose resonance with his steadily maturing fan base- now more used to bunking lectures than lessons. But he grasps our attention with two hands and by shaking the audience up into a craze with Shelia, we remember just what was so special about his music. Zombie, Jamie’s first single off his new album, is the perfect ending to the night and as the doors are opened into a chilly and misty Mancunian air, zombie fans pour out a little worse for wear after such a high octane Jamie T experience.

We almost forgive Jamie for not being around “half as much as he could have” when he returns with such a well planned, well performed and well played gig.