A whistle-blowing carnival of flashing lights and trumpet solos lights up the O2 Academy Brixton for “Blame It On Me”, performed an hour into George Ezra’s London show.
Touring his second No 1 album, Staying At Tamara’s, it’s the climax of a brilliantly enjoyable evening, proving that easy listening isn’t necessarily just background noise. In fact, the hip-shaking raconteur with an unwavering grin is here to prove the exact opposite.
Ezra chats comfortably with the audience between almost every song, visibly so content to reunite with his fans singing every lyric, old and new, back to him instantly. Staying at Tamara’s is “about escaping and dreaming and getting away from everything around you”, he says as he greets the room. “Hopefully you can get down with a bit of that.”
The good mood is infectious – it’s impossible to not get down with Ezra’s show. Although the new album is a bit lighter, more summer camp fun than baritone blues, there’s a maturity in the live set which is as impressive as it is entertaining. Old favourites are given ambitious instrumental revamps, thanks to a furiously happy band alongside Ezra; a cheeky circus-type keyboard fits comfortably into “Cassy O’”; “Barcelona” sounds fresh with the crystal clear twang of two guitars and crisp cymbals.
The standout additions come from Victoria Rule and Matthew Benson, Ezra’s charismatic musicians-cum-hype crew, on the trumpet and trombone respectively. The brassy fanfares give the show an aura of celebration, of pure fun that makes the whole room bounce gleefully in unison.
Fans who have followed George Ezra since 2014 on his Wanted on Voyage tour are rewarded, as the singer intersperses songs with anecdotes told like secrets. The cheesiness of his persona is completely owned, he relishes the easy satisfaction of the details: the backing chants of “Paradise” and “Don’t Matter Now”, that one hidden high note of “Shotgun” – the entire auditorium echoes everything back. He recounts the lyric video conception for the three singles he teased from Staying at Tamara’s, the gimmicky karaoke set that Ezra sings himself, in self-admittedly the worst suit he could find.
But he’s not limited to the easy escapism and naff cheekiness that Staying at Tamara’s promotes. The night’s music is carefully crafted, a midway break in the Brixton set allows a pause for dancing feet and a moment to appreciate George Ezra for his deep sensitivity too. “Saviour” is rich and emotionally engaging, even without First Aid Kit’s ethereal presence onstage. Ezra’s vocal skill is shown off, as is the layered and stable instrumentation of a musician who’s clearly a bit more grown-up.
The caring nod to still unnamed “Song 6” from way back when proves an awareness of his own versatility, and a clear skill in making every song feel as important. “Hold My Girl” brings the unsurprising tear-jerking moment of the night with a brave and humble performance – but that doesn’t make it any less effective. With every songwriting story, each new shoulder bop to his own contagious pop’n’roll sound, the blissful joy rolls off the artist in waves.
Originally published on the Independent