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An animated James Blunt enjoys Center Stage in Atlanta

James Blunt returned to Atlanta on Thursday night playing to a full and enthusiastic Center Stage crowd. As part of his world-wide Moon Landing tour it was the first time Blunt had been back to play in Atlanta since 2007 and it was immediately apparent that not had he been missed but that he has become a much better live performer

James Blunt at Center Stage, Atlanta. May 8 2014
James Blunt at Center Stage, Atlanta. May 8 2014
Photography by Andrew Snook

The set list was the best of Blunt’s older music mixed in with an extensive selection of music off the recently released Moon Landing album which is very good. Blunt was honest in his assessment of some of his music calling “Goodbye My Lover” a miserable song.

Despite the misery he perceived in some of his music it was obvious that he was looking to have a good time. He was energetic and engaging, sincere and self-deprecating. Constantly moving back and forth across the stage as he sang, he posed for camera phone photos and promised the front rows of the audience that at some point he was going crowd surfing and they’d better be ready.

In his introductions to songs his humor came through time and again as he made fun of a variety of things including the Chinese and the French for their cultural response to “I Really Want You” but most of all he made fun of himself. Nothing was off-limits as he made fun of his military background, his accent, some of his “miserable” songs and his height and other facets of his stature.

The early part of the set was highlighted by some great versions of “Blue On Blue”, and “Carry You Home” before Blunt introduced “Satellites”, a song off the new album, perfected in Canada, just in time for the Atlanta show!

Dedicating “Miss America” to Atlanta native, Whitney Houston, James Blunt acknowledged the song could just as easily have been for Amy Winehouse or Marilyn Monroe. He was genuinely affected by it and that sincerity was appreciated by the crowd who were respectfully hushed during the poignant ballad.

A couple of upbeat songs followed, “These Are The Words” and his latest single “Postcards” for which he played a Ukelele, his favorite kind of guitar as it makes him “look bigger” both on stage and in the bedroom, apparently!

After another “miserable” song, “Goodbye My Lover” the set’s highlight followed. Two stripped down versions of his more popular songs “No Tears” and “I Really Want You” were sung by Blunt, accompanied only by Chris Pemberton on piano and John Garrison on background vocals.

It is with songs like this that a venue like Center Stage really comes into its own; the crowd were respectfully hushed and the sound was so clean that it was to easy to hear the subtleties of Blunt’s treatment of the songs. It was great stuff and Blunt was sincerely appreciative of the crowd’s respect of the songs and the way he presented them.

After the playing the mandatory “You’re Beautiful” to rapturous applause the set finished with “So Long Jimmy”. The three-song encore was highlighted by the anthem “Bonfire Heart”.

Throughout the evening the crowd were having a great time, responding to every request made of them by James Blunt or the band to sing or clap. Blunt made good on his promise to crowd surf much to the delight of the crowd on the floor and much to the delight of Blunt himself.

The lighting folks cannot have been aware at how much Blunt was going to move around at Center Stage. Illuminated by a solitary stationary spotlight, any time Blunt moved from that spotlight he was shrouded in darkness. Disappointing especially when he surfed on top of his piano or when he jammed with various band members at various times during the evening. He was having fun, it was too bad that much of it went unseen by the audience.

Oh Honey from Brooklyn, New York opened the show and their folk-pop music proved to be a perfect complement to James Blunt. Their set of almost 40 minutes was warmly received by crowd that was filtering in.

Despite the lighting issue, it was a great evening out that showed that James Blunt the musician has become happier. His songs are much more light-hearted and don’t seem to have the same hard-edged vocals that some of his earlier material did. Blunt the performer has come a long way since he last played in Atlanta in 2007. He’s more animated and engaging than he was then. That fuels the audience that, in turn provides him more energy.

Set list

Face the Sun 

I'll Take Everything 

Blue on Blue 

High 

Billy 

Wisemen 

Carry You Home 

Satellites
Miss America 

These Are the Words 

Postcards 

Goodbye My Lover 

No Tears 

I Really Want You 

So Far Gone 

Heart to Heart 

Same Mistake 

You're Beautiful 

So Long, Jimmy 


Encore:
Stay the Night 

Bonfire Heart 

1973