What: Just Jack
Where: Shepherds Bush Empire, London
When: 9th November 2009
A Monday night in wet West London is never a good start, however this one was lifted by a great evening’s entertainment.
This was a night where I wouldn’t feel short changed. Not one but two support acts. Starting the evening off with a very accessible sound and looking top notch were “His girl Friday” and their lead singer Jess Mills in a very clingy dress that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Jane Fonda in the cult sci-fi hit Barbarella. Whilst her look got the attention and a few adoring shouts from some of the younger (and more inebriated) crowd, it was their performance and her sweet voice that kept the attention through their all too short set.
To contrast Jess and the whole band sound the second support act was just a boy and a guitar.
When Ed Sheeran took to the stage I did start to wonder if he was old enough to be out alone at night! His young looks though were soon a secondary thought. I think I can safely say that Ed could very soon be the new Newton Faulkner. Not so much hair, not as talented a guitarist but what he lacks in those areas is more than made up for with a whole heap of talent. Ed used a recording loop to “build” a sound for many of his songs. He plays his guitar, uses it as a drum or records a short vocal section and then as each of these repeats he overlays either more of the same, his beat box rhythm or his own lead vocal to great effect. I’ve not seen such a crowd reaction to a support act than when I saw Newton himself in the sleepy backwater of East Grinstead back in Feb 2006. Ed is certainly one to watch.
So suitably warmed up the crowd buzzed in anticipation for Just Jack. Although not a huge venue it was surprising to see that Shepherds Bush wasn’t sold out. With a few excellent singles under his belt and the number 2 chart hit “Starz in their eyes” I would have expected the place to be bursting at the seams.
Those that didn’t make it or didn’t know about the gig missed a very good set. Just Jack’s music is a mix of pop, dance and hip hop with insightful and intelligent lyrics. Just Jack (Jack Allsopp) is often compared to Mike Skinner of the Streets. When I first heard “Starz in their eyes” I certainly assumed that was who was playing. Their styles are easy to compare on first listen, both laid back, droll deliveries with a view on the world that brings street awareness combined with a level of perception about people that really lays their inner motives bare. I think Skinner may have burnt himself out with his tales of urban despair, I certainly don’t think Jack has, he seems to be growing as an artist with each new album.
Tonight’s material was mainly drawn from the later two of his three albums yet he didn’t make the common mistake of over promoting his new album to the detriment of the audience.
Having had recent chart success I expected tonight’s audience to be predominantly drawn from the younger end of the spectrum. There were certainly a few very young ones with parents in tow, however I was surprised at the spread of ages on show. It was good to see and certainly showed how Jack’s music and lyrics have the ability to hit all ages. His music is very easy to feel at home with. He has good melodies yet doesn’t let down on the rhythm and feeling of excitement in the delivery. As Jack’s lyrics form an integral part to his appeal it was a shame that these were sometimes lost in the volume of the general instrument mix.
The singles were the obvious crowd pleasers and got the expected sing-a-long reception. To concentrate on the singles though would do a disservice to the rest of the set. The planned and then pulled single release “Doctor Doctor” was a crowd favourite and I felt that “Blood” showed that even a raucous crowd could realise a good thing when they hear it and obey Jack’s instruction to listen.