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James Blunt kicks off tour with Valentine's date in Birmingham - review

By Leon Burakowski | Birmingham | Music | Published:

Singer-songwriter James Blunt had a Valentine's Day date with 5,000 fans in Birmingham city centre to kick-off his year-long Once Upon A Mind world tour.

James Blunt started his Once Upon A Mind tour at Arena Birmingham. Photo: Michelle Martin

To the ominous sound of a bell tolling and silhouetted against giant video screens, Blunt burst onto the stage with a dramatic performance of How It Feels To Be Alive from his latest and sixth album, Once Upon A Mind.

For the next 90 minutes the 45-year-old former British Army captain kept the audience enthralled with his powerful performance, acoustic guitar in hand and flanked by his four-piece band.

He thanked the audience for choosing to spend the most romantic day of the year listening to his "miserable songs".

James Blunt at Arena Birmingham. Photo: Michelle Martin
James Blunt at Arena Birmingham. Photo: Michelle Martin

That was an example of the dry, self-deprecating wit that has made Blunt, who has been on the music scene for 16 years, such a likeable character and popular TV guest. His Twitter account has 1.8 million followers.

But it is more than charm that has won Blunt a loyal following. His emotional songs speak to people. Songs in which the father-of-two gives encouragement to a child (I Told You) or sings about an ailing parent (Monsters) really connect with many listeners.

It helps that new songs like The Greatest and Champions have such an anthemic feel and that he has in his armoury the hits High, Goodbye My Lover (performed at the piano) and the song he introduced by wishing us a happy Valentine's Day, You're Beautiful. The latter inevitably became a sing-along with the audience.

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James Blunt at Arena Birmingham. Photo: Michelle Martin
James Blunt at Arena Birmingham. Photo: Michelle Martin

Blunt played ukulele for the jaunty Postcards, whilst the up-tempo numbers The Truth and OK suggest the dance grooves of his adopted home in Ibiza have had an influence.

Other highlights included the return of support act Ward Thomas to the stage to lend their delightful harmonies to Halfway and when Blunt invited the fans to switch on their phone torches, which turned the Arena into a sea of lights during Mistake.

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James Blunt at Arena Birmingham. Photo: Michelle Martin
James Blunt at Arena Birmingham. Photo: Michelle Martin

Ending his main set with the poignant Monsters, written when his father Charles was seriously ill, Blunt then returned with his band for a three-song encore.

That had the audience up and out of their seats for latest hit Cold, the piano-driven 1973 and the freewheeling Bonfire Heart.

Thanks James, it was beautiful.

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