Arena Birmingham ★★★★✩
AS JAMES BLUNT’s latest world tour kicked off in Birmingham, the irony wasn’t lost on him that he was playing his tales of heartbreak on Valentine’s Day.
A third of the way into the 21-song set, he stopped to ask why couples would come to see him play ‘miserable songs’ on such a night, before bursting into Goodbye My Lover. Those who are unaware of Blunt’s self-deprecation should probably scroll through his Twitter account.
Classics from his 2004 debut Back To Bedlam, including Wisemen, High and, of course, You’re Beautiful, made their way into a hit-packed setlist which rarely let up throughout the night.
Newer tracks — such as Champions and I Told You from his most recent record, and OK, a 2017 collaboration with Robin Schulz — also appeared.
‘It’s gonna be OK,’ proclaimed Blunt throughout the upbeat hit, before taking a seat at the piano for the most memorable moment of the evening. The emotional Monsters, an ode to his father who has been diagnosed with stage four chronic kidney disease, was performed with such heartfelt rigour that you could hear a pin drop. Images of the pair appeared on the screen throughout, as Blunt held back tears.
Returning for a three-song encore, the Wiltshire singer-songwriter thanked his fans for sticking with him as he played Cold, 1973 and Bonfire Heart, the latter re-igniting the sprightly crowd into a new-found blaze of appreciation.
James Blunt may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but he certainly knows how to win hearts — even with his so-called miserable songs on Valentine’s Day.