Birmingham Post reader Mike Rant reviews James Blunt at the NIA.
James Blunt appeared wearing a pearl-grey suit, white shirt and shoestring tie he looked almost respectable - but the tousled mop of hair, wild eyes and manic energy soon dispelled that particular myth.
He sang track after track, running through two or three tracks from the Bedlam CD and a couple of newer tracks.
In sharp contrast to the support band, the sound quality was excellent and JB's vocals were both intense and incredibly close to the studio version of each song.
At the end of the first half hour he sat down at the piano, mentioned he'd been in the army and started to play No Bravery.
On a screen either side of the stage images of Kosovo were superimposed with JB in profile singing from the stage, pounding out the minor chords and singing his heart out..... and at that point (if you didn't know already) you find out why James Blunt has the following and success he does - what's in the songs are his own beliefs, experiences, loves, losses and very occasionally successes.
I've seen some great names in music in concert but James Blunt does something very few I've ever seen actually achieve - his vocals convince you that he actually MEANS the words completely - quite often you get the feeling that he wishes he didn't.
The only cover version of the night was a thumping rendition of Slade's Coz I Luv You. I don't know if the track was chosen for local relevance (the Birmingham crowd loved it), but it showed the heavier underside of JB, something that kept reappearing in flashes throughout the evening.
Half way through the song, James raced through the crowd and took up station at a piano in the middle of the auditorium floor. Surrounded by the crowd he completed his homage to Noddy and Dave and then broke into Goodbye My Lover, another gut-wrencher that left me with tracks of goose bumps and an overwhelming desire for more.
Track after track from Bedlam and Lost Souls, backed by a band (including some local guys) who were memorable for being both note perfect and unobtrusive, the audience experienced alternating poignancy and power.
The performance was impressive in its honesty and its integrity, culminating in a 3 song encore all from Lost Souls that had the crowd singing along to every track. Despite severe cramps, a need to pee and a knowledge that the guy next to me was gasping for a cigarette, it was still a disappointment when the lights went up.
To those fashionably fickle detractors who feel that too much JB is depressing, I suggest they click 'repeat' on their Bob the Builder music collection and forget about the real world.
For me, whilst some of the lyrics bite hard at my middle-class, comfortable existence, and James Blunt evidently feels his songs far more than is emotionally healthy, I'd rather remember the flings and empathise with the songs and the artist, they let me know I'm alive, breathing and still capable of emotion.