Live Review : Jamie T

Bouncing back with more boundary-pushing music and whip-smart words...O2 Academy, Oxford, Monday, March 2

In the last few days Oxford has become obsessed with ‘The Human Google’, Gail Trimble. The captain of Corpus Christi College’s University Challenge team has had the town a-twitter with her apparently limitless knowledge.

Well, tonight it’s the turn of The Human Spotify. With his seemingly encyclopaedic understanding of music, Jamie Treays has proved himself equally happy trading blows with The Clash, bashing out Woody Guthrie ditties or channelling the Beastie Boys’ freestyling. More than a mere amalgamator of styles, he’s an alchemist, brewing organic and unlikely mixes to a consistent gold standard.Five new songs unveiled tonight ensure there’s a varied taster for T’s second album, due out in June. Firstly there’s ‘Sticks And Stones’, refined from its debut at last summer’s V, with big guitars backing his beat-matched lyrics about compulsive troublemakers looking for a Saturday night shakedown.

The ska-synths of ‘368’ follow, becoming an immediate singalong thanks to its “He’s 300, 368!” chorus. Acoustic tracks ‘Jilly Ameen’ and ‘Emily’s Heart’ reveal another, more tender and heartfelt side. ‘British Intelligence’, meanwhile, switches mood, opening as a sinister bass-led rant before Johnny Marr-friendly guitars chime in, turning the song into a violent state of the nation-cum-state of your life address. Whew! But that head-spin of styles is merely the new material.

Adding a punkier edge to tracks from first album ‘Panic Prevention’, the Wimbledon troubadour and his band push the boundaries wider still. From the bare bones of ‘Back In The Game’, rattled out on an acoustic bass, through the rallying cry of ‘Salvador’ – blitzed through at twice its normal speed – to a skank-friendly cover of ‘Policeman’ by Scot-rock outfit The Silencers, what unites all the songs is Jamie’s impressive precision. With his lyrics whizzing around at 100mph, these songs could easily fall apart live, but Treays spits out his words with pin-point accuracy. More impressively, the crowd match him through all the lyrical twists and turns.

Thus ‘If You Got The Money’ becomes an alternative anthem for the recession nation, ‘Calm Down Dearest’ swells to a joyous hymn, while closing track ‘Sheila’ is hollered back with such vigour that Jamie dives in and delivers his vocals atop the crowd’s shoulders. “We’re just trying to get back into it. It’s been incredibly easy, actually,” laughs Jamie after the gig. With these warm-up dates just a starter for 10, it’s frightening to think what will happen when Jamie T really gets going.

Paul Stokes