Every year I attend the awesome North by Northwest (NXNE) Music & Film Conference and Festival in Toronto (this year from June 6-8) Iâ€™m reminded of just how exhilarating the experience of live music can be. And yet outside of that, rarely do I find myself at a concert.
Itâ€™s even more of a rarity that there are two concerts in the same night I wish to attend; which is exactly what happened this past week. Jamie Cullum, the dynamic British singer, songwriter and pianist whose brilliant Verve debut disc, Twentysomething, has sold over two million copies worldwide (with nearly 400,000 in the States) and garnered itself a well-deserved Grammy nomination, had returned to town in support of his wonderful follow-up cd, Catching Tales, and I couldnâ€™t have been happier. Having already seen him in concert, I knew the kind of fantastic performance this lad was capable of. I mean, this guy possesses a level of energy, enthusiasm and talent on stage that is beyond impressive.
But then I discovered that new sensation James Blunt, another cute bloke from across the pond (and a former reconnaissance officer in the British Army), was also performing the same night. While Bluntâ€™s debut cd, Back to Bedlam, had conquered pretty much everywhere except North America in 2005, the single Youâ€™re Beautiful was finally paving a platinum path for him and the disc here in 2006. (And Iâ€™m happy to share that I had picked up the cd here long before anyone else I knew had taken notice of this yummy Brit.)
It was a bit of dilemma but after careful consideration I chose Jamie over James. While in Paris earlier this year, I had attempted to attend Jamieâ€™s concert there only to discover that it was completely sold out (and I wasnâ€™t willing to pay 200 EUROS from a scalper for a pair of tickets, merci beaucoup). Mind you, the show was sold out here, too, but I managed to score a couple of tickets from a contact of a friend of mine.
I think I made the right choice. Having seen Blunt perform at the recent Brit Awards, he has a lovely voice (and is very easy on the eyes) but also seemed to be a bit nervous and awkward on stage; which in turn makes me a bit uncomfortable and awkward as his audience.
Cullen, on the other hand, once again proved that he is a natural dynamo with an electric stage presence, effortlessly engaging his fans at Torontoâ€™s Harbourfront Centre, a welcomingly intimate venue (think of a smaller version of Thunderdome from the Mad Max flick). At one point he even wandered into the audience with his saxophone player to perform David Bowieâ€™s classic Nature Boy; a wonderful interpretation of the song enhanced by the fact that he was standing so close to where I was sitting I could have easily slipped him my business card without anyone knowing.
While impossible to be in two places at once, Iâ€™m sure the time will come for me to be perfectly Blunt next time around.