Has last week’s album review killed the Peñate party? Not bloody likely...
“What are you doing?” asks a bamboozled Jack Peñate midway through his set as a rowdy scuffle breaks out in the front few rows of the heaving Astoria. “That’s not what it’s all about! Don’t be pricks – people came here to be nice to each other,” he finishes, shaking his head like a disappointed dad who’s just found his son going through his sister’s knicker drawer. Normally a little bit of moshpit mania is overlooked by those strutting their stuff on the stage, but not at a Peñate party. As soon as Jack finishes his speech the whole venue bursts into spontaneous applause and whooping, leaving the troublemakers shamefaced and running back home to their Milburn albums.
Last week’s NME album review pretty much tore Jack’s debut LP ‘Matinée’ to tiny little shreds, accusing him of being a lightweight pop fluffer who was undeniably a good musician, but just a little too cheesy for some tastes. There is however, a major difference between a slab of fetid Gorgonzola spinning around in your record player and a hunk of prime, gorgeously ripe Camembert leaping about, filling your ears with the type of heart-starting pop-abilly that paints goofy grins across the mugs of everyone here tonight. The live stage is undoubtedly where Peñate excels.
On a stage set that looks like it’s been nicked from a local drama group’s wacky production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Jack leaps higher than he’s ever leapt, rocks a fantastic falsetto and grins from ear to ear, pride and shock oozing from his check shirt and puce-coloured slacks. Naturally, his George Michael circa ‘Careless Whisper’ hair bounces in the breeze.
With a chugging ‘Spit At Stars’ opening proceedings, Jack consistently ups the ante, with a dashingly soulful ‘Learning Lines’, a jiggling, juddering ‘Run For Your Life’ and his punked-up cover of Beats International’s 1990 rave-up classic ‘Dub Be Good To Me’. For the soul ballad ‘My Yvonne’, Jack’s joined onstage by honey-lunged London warbler Adele who, despite her glorious vocals, is mere background noise compared to Jack’s earnest crooning under the sparkling mirrorball. For the first time tonight he ditches the twitching, lost in music and soppier than a Disney weepie boxset.
It’s clear that Jack’s heartfelt sentiments are never anything less than utterly genuine. When he tells the crowd that this is the best day of his life you sense he really means it, and when he finishes his set with the skank-o-rama of ‘Second, Minute Or Hour’, you know a fair few people here are probably thinking exactly the same thing.