NME’s Best Solo Artist hits London with a flurry of mixtapes and freestyling genius
For the girl puking vodka on Kentish Town Road, tonight’s gig has ended before it began, with her friends scooping her off the pavement and back on to the Tube. But to those heading on to the Forum, she’s a signpost towards the Jamie T nation, a world of suburban kids gulping down greedy draughts of freedom and often OD-ing in their haste to live.
You see, Mr T’s music soundtracks the messy unpacking of a psychic wardrobe stuffed with all the issues of those shedding their kid-skin for adulthood: the odd Ninja Turtle still lurking in the back, just behind the homemade bong and the modest, but well-thumbed trove of porn. With the looks of an enlarged infant, this man-boy-man has yelped his excitable growing pains on to tape to produce one of the year’s defining albums, ‘Panic Prevention’ – the soundtrack for any of us trying to grow up slowly. And tonight we’re here to do just that.
Pausing only to set down two bottles of Becks and one of JD, Jamie tears into a pacy ‘Ike & Tina’, knocks out the squawk-pop of ‘Operation’ and struts through the cod-reggae bawlalong of ‘If You Got The Money’. The presence of a full band has freed him of “that clapped-out piece-of-shit called the bass guitar”, so now he can stalk the stage, head slightly bowed, muttering animatedly like he’s back in his home studio, freestyling frontline reports from whatever dancefloor carnage he’s just witnessed at Po Na Na’s.
Soon, he’s flinging some of his famous mixtapes into the crowd, bringing out the hands like it’s alms day in Calcutta, then
he’s off again, attacking his own songs with preacherly verve. Through the boozy self-loathing of ‘Calm Down Dearest’, the boozy joy of ‘Sheila’, and the, ahem, boozy rant of ‘Alicia Quays’, Jamie’s glass is always half-full of something, anything, justputitin therewillyapleaseluv?
In between, we get the verbal equivalent of snatches of overdub on a mixtape, as he scats out snippets of Elton John and Artful Dodger (“Craig David all over your – boing!”). It’s another echo of how he writes music: roughly spliced, with most of the personality condensing in the fault lines. To terrifying clamour, he returns for an encore including ghostly, piano-led newie, ‘Come Over To Mine For A Moonshine’, a song that vindicates all those “next Billy Bragg” tags.
Jamie T has found a new England. Seems it was behind the shit at the back of his cupboards all along. Suburban Narnia, here we come.