|Current music:||Garbage - So Like A Rose|
Jem - Live @ Manchester Academy 2, 4/12/2005
Your First Ever Tour is always going to be problematic. Typically, your entire output to date amounts to one 42-minute 11 track album and three singles spread over six discs with about 15 remixes between them. Consequently, your set is basically going to consist of the album and a couple of highly random covers.
Jem is no different. Well, except that she even managed to omit one of the album tracks (Stay Now).
Of course, the live stage does allow for a lot of other random oddments. Gigs aren't just an opportunity for a few hundred people to turn up and shout along to Just A Ride (the only song that most people seemed to know); you're there for the artist as well as the music. And despite looking about 19 in most of her videos, it's important to remember that Jemma Griffiths is actually 30 and got her big break by hocking an EP around America. As such, she's got a lot of tales to tell about how Flying High (the lovely ballad that closes the album) was actually written while she was plastered on gin, and how a polite enquiry in Washington about if there's any areas in the US where people are renowned for fornicating with sheep resulted in an impromptu performance of Sweet Home Alabama.
When your output to date is so light, this sort of padding becomes essential; a 42 minute album can therefore take an hour to perform, which is a vaguely respectable length for £14.
As for the set itself... well, Just A Ride set the crowd on fire, there was a surprisingly acceptable cover of Coldplay's In My Place, and the main two songs I was there for (Falling For You and 24) got played back to back just before the encore, ranking it right up there with my favourite concert moments. Much of the rest went by without incident; the hugest songs got picked out for the singles which means a lot of the audience didn't have any clue about album tracks like Save Me and Missing You (although she did manage to sell the latter one fairly well).
Talking of 24, Jem's band are bonkers. Seriously, the bassist and guitarist could teach Busted a few things about the fine art of jumping around like a dickhead on stage. It's clear that they all get along very well socially as well as as musicians, which is why everybody also got to sing Happy Birthday to the keyboardist. Who promptly stole the show by singing Sweet Home Alabama, and playing They directly from Jem's newly acquired copy of "Jem" Finally Woken: For Piano, Voice And Guitar, seemingly without irony. By their own admission it was threatening to turn into a pantomime; and it probably would have if more of the crowd had picked up the answering cry of "Oh no it isn't!".
So yes. The first review I ever read of Jem described her as what would happen if somebody told Beth Orton to cheer up; both musically and in her performance, it shows.
Support: Mattafix were a strange bunch, but I've heard a lot worse. I'd skipped their contribution to my copy of Now! 62 (Big City Life) based on it's title, but it seems they deserve a bit more of a chance. It's certainly the first time I've seen a kettle drum and a laptop on the same stage; and also the first time I've seen the support act have to take their own stuff off stage...
Come On Closer
In My Place
Just A Ride
Sweet Home Alabama
Falling For You