Jamie Lenman @ The Craufurd Arms, Wolverton – 25th July 2021

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Arguably the UK’s best small venue The Craufurd Arms thankfully survived the lockdown unscathed and is very much back in business. It was here I saw my last gig some 16 months ago so it’s nicely symmetrical that I break my duck in the same hallowed hall and I couldn’t wish to be with any other artist than the wonderfully eclectic Jamie Lenman.

Former Reuben lead vocalist and guitarist Jamie Lenman has had a varied career that’s incorporated everything from post-hardcore to thrash metal via folk, big-band and alternative rock. Tonight’s seated, acoustic event strips his songs bare and it has a kind of levelling effect which unifies these various genres within certain musical perimeters. Greeted with rapturous applause Jamie takes the brief sound problems in his stride and launches into ‘Summer Of Discontent (The Future Is Dead)’. It’s a groovy number that finds him all over the fretboard like a rash and, hitting the strings exceptionally hard, putting the ‘power’ in power chords. This is a seated, intimate show but ‘Summer Of Discontent (The Future Is Dead)’ has the faithful swaying in their seats, spilling beer and singing along…and it’s still only the first song!

Jamie Lenman is also a noted illustrator and he brings that eye for detail to his performance, not only in an astute lyricism but also in the observational banter that intersperses his songs. Sometimes I find acoustic shows can be very dry and one dimensional, especially if the artist delivers the songs at a similar pace. No danger here as, with plenty of twists and turns, ‘I Ain’t Your Boy’ benefits from an emotive delivery and the following ‘Mistakes’ is given a lively interpretation. Infused with Americana ‘All Of England Is A City’ emanates as if from some Deep South opium den while, bathed in blood red light, ‘A Handsome Stranger Called Death’ sounds slightly sinister.

Tonight’s show is split into three distinct sections and for the second act he invites wife Katie on stage to provide vocal harmonies. Providing a nice foil to Jamie’s delivery his partner adds depth and texture to four tracks, three of which appeared on 2019’s Devolver album while the unreleased ‘Bad Friend’ get a welcome airing. The majority of this set is culled from his solo career but thankfully Jamie hasn’t turned his back on his past and, as we hit the home straight, fan favourite ‘Moving To Blackwater’ (from previous band Reuben) is unleashed and, as you’d expect, garners a warm response. Annie Lennox’s ‘Love Song For A Vampire’ is given a reworking and features some pretty impressive vocal gymnastics.

Not one for wasting time Jamie dispenses with the clichéd encore and plays straight through with a cover version of Labi Siffre’s ‘It Must Be Love’ that exists somewhere between the original and Madness’ nutty interpretation. Gradually increasing in tempo ‘Mississippi’ proves itself a gargantuan closer and has all but the infirm grooving in their seats. Which is exactly where we came in…

Set List:

  1. Summer Of Discontent (The Future Is Dead)
  2. Body Popping
  3. I Don’t Wanna Be Your Friend
  4. I Ain’t Your Boy
  5. Mistakes
  6. Tonight My Wife Is Your Wife
  7. All Of England Is A City
  8. A Handsome Stranger Called Death
  9. Little Lives
  10. If You Have To Ask, You’ll Never Know
  11. Bad Friend
  12. It’s Hard To Be A Gentleman
  13. Moving To Blackwater
  14. Love Song For A Vampire
  15. Like Me Better
  16. Good Luck
  17. It Must Be Love
  18. Mississippi

Reviewed by Peter Dennis