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Jamie T. gets up close and personal

The British musician and Mercury nominee gets on the Troubadour floor in the final show of his U.S. debut tour.

September 28, 2007|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

In his native England, Jamie T.'s wordy rapping and mix of punk, hip-hop, reggae and new wave has this year scored him a hit debut album, NME's best solo artist award and a nomination for the U.K.'s prestigious Mercury Prize alongside the likes of Amy Winehouse, Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys. Although his U.S. profile is much lower, plenty of audience members nevertheless sang along Wednesday during his performance at the Troubadour.

Backed by his quartet the Pacemakers, the 21-year-old (born Jamie Treays) played an energetic hourlong concert showcasing his collection "Panic Prevention" (a reference to the panic attacks he had as a boy). On this final night of his debut U.S. tour, the skinny lad in a denim jacket, plaid shirt and baseball cap confessed gratitude that anyone had shown up, while also displaying a cheeky confidence. Before the set began, he playfully demanded that listeners in the balcony come down to join the crowd on the floor, and later he too climbed down into the audience.

The album's stark, staccato tunes with their piles of rapid-fire vocals and chaotic, sometimes thrashing intensity have earned him many a comparison to the Arctic Monkeys. On Wednesday, such selections as "Operation" and "Ike and Tina" did have that same kinetic throb as the Monkeys' "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor," although Jamie T.'s music proved more eccentric.

One influence here is the Clash, which gives his songs a vague political sensibility while mostly dealing with the usual youth-culture subjects of drinking in the clubs, finding a direction in life and sexual encounters alternately frustrating and violent.

"Ike and Tina" was one of several tunes, including "NWA" and "Alicia Quays," that referenced pop stars without seeming to actually be about them. The former stands for "Not Without Apology," and the latter was a rambling bit of self-reflection blended with braggadocio.

Playing electric guitar as well as acoustic bass, Jamie T. veered between laid-back and amped-up, doffing his cap after a couple of numbers to reveal a head of mussed brown hair and an expression of youthful delight. He had some jerky soul-man moves that underlined the bits of funkiness occasionally surfacing in the sonic soup cooked up by the keyboards, guitars and drums.

In concert, some of the nuances of the charmingly primitive "Panic Prevention" were roughed up, as when the band delivered a much more forceful rendition of his U.K. hit "Brand New Bass Guitar." But Jamie T. still conveyed the all-over-the-place mania of a young artist inspired by a world where a variety of pop sounds live side by side. Still, his decision to downplay some of the album's quirkiness made for a more cohesive listening experience.

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