He's shed the cheesy pop facade of old and matured into a carnival-starter extraodinaire. Pianos, New York, Thursday, June 4
ack Peñate looks nervous, as well he might. Having watched his first album – a cheery, chirpy, Mockney affair – arrive to somewhat less than a standing ovation even in his native Britain, his decision to start the tour around the release of his second album in the US is somewhat bizarre. As he comes onstage in a small venue in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the dancefloor is only half full, and he looks for a moment as though he’s thinking he might have made a mistake.
Within seconds, though, there’s a hammering on the drums and the whole band launch full-pelt into the first song, ‘Everything Is New’. The track, which sounds a little limp on the new album of the same title, is completely revitalised here: an energetic, thumping mission statement. Jack throws caution to the wind as he pounds on a snare drum
and dances like a loon – this is not the guy we knew and were sort of indifferent to. This is some new Jack Peñate, a relaxed, baggy one who seems to have escaped from an open-air rave. He’s all flailing limbs and hips and African beats, about as far away from Camden as you can imagine.
‘Give Yourself Away’ is an instant party, sounding like a street carnival in a wildly celebrating Ewok village. It’s followed by ‘Every Glance’, which, like everything else, sounds a hell of a lot better live.
By now, the room has completely filled up with dancing bodies. A girl shrieks as he introduces ‘So Near’, even though there’s
no way she could know the song yet. Jack, grinning, gently chides her with the words, “Come on, that was a lie… it’s impossible to love without knowing”. ‘Let’s All Die’ sees him having some kind of tribal dance freak-out: the crowd goes nuts for this funky, shoutalong song, and when it ends, one girl bellows her approval so loudly that Jack enquires if there is a moose in the room.
He closes with singles ‘Tonight’s Today’ and ‘Be The One’, and even though the set is shockingly short and not one song is played off the first album, no-one seems to feel short-changed. He departs, all smiles, to be met with a lot of sweaty handshakes from new fans. If he came here to prove the point that it’s possible to shed your image and start again, he’s succeeded. Everything is new, indeed.