“Still know you can call me whenever. I’m always round town, man I’ll be around forever,” declares Jamie Treays, otherwise known as Jamie T on ‘Rabbit Hole’. Whether this is an ironic nod to his recently-ended hiatus or an ambitious statement of intent matters not. What does matter, is that within the first five minutes of his set tonight, such ambitions are made believable and Manchester Academy, a somewhat soulless venue that often eats atmosphere as eagerly as its punters drink its beer, is transformed in to a sweaty, drunken soiree and perhaps the largest amicable meeting of Mancs and Scousers in recent memory.
With a setlist that alternates almost track by track between established material and that which is taken from this year’s Carry on the Grudge, there’s a perfect balance to the evening and one that keeps even the fair-weather fans happy. The fact of the matter is however, that the fair-weather fans are few and far between; almost every one in the audience roars back each song word for word, hanging on to Treays’ between song patter with almost rapturous regard.
Whilst on record, newer material may seem more refined, if not more troubled than his earlier releases, live they take on an aggressive rawness that blows their recorded counterparts out of the water. Opener ‘Limits Lie’ for instance, in all it’s narcotic wooziness, is elevated beyond that of just a set opener, acting more like an anthemic call to arms; burly beer-stained strangers arm in arm, the emotion palpable. ‘Peter’ on the other hand is an acerbic, post-blues foot-stomper that is perhaps Jamie T at his heaviest, and most self-deprecating.
Somewhat sensibly, there is more of an emphasis on earlier material, and tracks such as ‘So Lonely Was the Ballad’ and even ‘Ike and Tina’ get early airings. The elephant in the room however is of course whether or not everyone’s favourite Jeremy Kyle candidate ‘Shelia’ will make an appearance, having been absent from a couple of setlists from earlier in the tour. Thankfully she does, as the second track in a four song encore which starts with a solo rendition of ‘Calm Down Dearest’. Unfortunately (and this is literally my only gripe of the entire evening), Treays switches the timing and delivery of the lyrics up, as is often the case when tracks are done live, but the crowd’s insistence at singing it as they usually would makes it sound sloppy and completely out of character of an evening in which sing-a-longs are transcended in to gospel-like preaching.
Things get back on track with ‘Shelia’ though, and having wanted to hear this track live since its release in 2007, I’m not disappointed. Quickly following up with ‘Zombie’ and ‘Sticks ‘n’ Stones’, the evening ends in a flood of thrown beer and riotous gang-chanting, shit-eating grins plastered across the faces of everyone present, several of whom seem to have ended up on the floor thanks to their over-amorous dancing and the thin layer of sweat and cider we’re paddling in.
Some gigs require you to stand at the back and take notes, noticing every vocal quiver or mistimed notes, other shows disregard such professionalism, allowing you to forget you’re there to critique them and be fully swept up in the atmosphere. Tonight was one of those occasions, and it feels somewhat trite passing written judgement on to a gig that clearly meant so much to so many. Rarely do modern musicians provoke the kind of reaction that Jamie T does; grown men swoon over his greased back hair and slurred swagger the way pre-teens do pop-stars; and though Treays is the antithesis of mainstream singer-songwriters and modern pop singers, it’s paradoxically for this reason that he’s viewed as such by his adoring fans.
Pictures Lee Hammond.