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culture: Endearing Blunt packs sober message; James Blunt at Newcastle Metro Radio Arena.

Byline: Vikki White

FOR a performer with an eye for the melancholic, James Blunt certainly knows how to keep an audience happy.

The singer-songwriter treated his fans to a stunning vocal showcase as he swept through his 20-song set with a minimum of fuss.

The stage was pared down and the chat was non-existent. Every note was pinpointed perfection. Blunt, whose first album Back to Bedlam remains the biggest seller of the 21st Century, is an endearingly awkward stage performer, looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights on more than one occasion.

He was most at ease when he jumped off the stage and ran into the surprised audience.

No Bravery was the highlight and reduced the crowd to silence.

Spitting with anger, this powerful, harrowing track was accompanied by visuals of devastation in Kosovo, where Blunt served in the Household Cavalry in the days when he had a proper job.

The twenty-and thirty-something punters had turned up in full voice, and Wiseman, Goodbye My Lover and Billy provided the perfect opportunity for a feelgood singalong. Blunt sang about half of You're Beautiful, preferring to stare at his word-perfect audience with bemusement and awe.

Likeable new single Love, Love, Love came before the three-song encore: One of the Brightest Stars, So Long, Jimmy and 1973. Blunt had started his show looking rather like a schoolboy forced into his best clothes for a visit to the relatives. It didn't suit him.

Now scruffy and sweaty, he finally let loose on stage as well as off, surfing the piano and sliding across the floor.

Unashamedly sentimental? Well, yes. But also outstandingly talented.

This prolific popstar's first visit to the venue was a treat.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 15, 2008
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