Jamie T fans could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief when his fourth album Trick landed on shelves this past week. Prior to the release of 2014’s Carry on the Grudge, London’s street urchin poet laureate had been on indie rock’s missing person list for the guts of five years, with some questioning if he’d hung up his microphone once and for all. Two records in as many years’ time seems to send the message that he’s back for good, but as he experiments with new sounds and styles, has his live show lost the ramshackle charm that had marked him out as unique amongst the endless other indie acts of the mid-noughties? The answer – judging from tonight’s evidence – is a defiant no.
The crowd in the Olympia is buzzing from the get-go. Despite his considerable sabbatical, his fan base hasn’t dwindled and the crowd tonight is a diverse mix. There’s a heavy contingent of the nostalgia-driven late-twenties set who likely first spied Jamie Treays and his brand new bass guitar in the pages of the NME and on rotation on MTV2, but there’s also a healthy smattering of younger fans who happily spit his marble-mouthed raps back at him word-for-word and gleefully roar “fucking croissant” up at the stage at every presentable opportunity. He is an artist who inspires a devoted following and it seems his self-imposed exile has only served to strengthen his mythology.
After a somewhat laboured opening, Treays grabs the crowd’s interest with a rollicking ‘Operation’ and keeps it with a set that regularly dips into his back catalogue. Panic Prevention numbers such as ‘Salvador’ and ‘If You Got the Money’ spark mass singalongs while ‘The Man’s Machine’ triggers the first, if by no means last, mosh pit of the evening. One of the joys of watching Jamie T live is the variety in his set. Treays has always been a musical magpie, pilfering whatever takes his fancy and tonight’s set encompasses everything from hip-hop, punk, metal, singer-songwriter and everything in between – and most impressively, none of it seems to jar.
One of the evening’s highlights comes when the band leaves the stage and Treays is left to perform solo renditions of Kings and Queens standout ‘Emily’s Heart’ and an anguished version of new track ‘Sign of the Times’ which finds the Wimbledon native addressing the state of modern Britain undershot with the usual degree of introspection and self-doubt that always seems to be present in his music.
Considering Trick was released less than a week ago, it’s only natural that some of the new songs have yet to worm their way into the crowd’s ears, but a couple of tour stops down the line should remedy that. ‘Tescoland’ recalls Billy Bragg channelling the Replacements and doesn’t sound out of place next to the tried and tested garage punk numbers from his earlier albums. The same can’t quite be said of the sludgy sub-Rage fury of ‘Tinfoil Boy’ and ‘Police Tapes’, which come across as somewhat muddled and lacking in the tunefulness that is one of Treays’ secret weapons.
Predictably, he saves the heavy hitters for the last, culminating in a stomping version of ‘Zombie’ that has the entire crowd bellowing each word back at him. Tonight’s gig feels like catching up with old friends. From the cast of tragic adolescents we were first introduced to on ‘Sheila’ to the roll call of juvenile delinquents downing White Lightning and going ‘twos’ on a cigarette in ‘Sticks ’n’ Stones’, Treays has crafted Day-Glo worlds within his songs with characters that still live and breathe all these years later.
By the time the lights go up at the end, it seems evident that there’s still plenty of believers in the crowd enjoying Treay’s blue blooded murder of the English tongue. Here’s hoping he sticks around in the limelight a little longer this time around.