James Blunt performing his Once Upon A Mind Tour at The Motorpoint Arena Nottingham on Thursday 20th February 2020


Images and review by Kevin Cooper

For many, James Blunt may be a bit of a joke but last night at a nearly packed Motorpoint Arena he was taken very seriously indeed.

Touring to promote his sixth studio album, Once Upon a Mind, it was a stripped back affair with just his four piece band, banks of moving spotlights and a split screen which was used dramatically throughout.

But starting proceedings were twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas, whose second studio album, Cartwheels, was the first album by a UK country act to reach number one in the UK Album chart. Starting their set bravely with an a capela version of A Living Prayer, they immediately silenced the large crowd who had arrived early. With just a guitar and keyboards they mesmerised with the likes of Carry You Home and Cartwheels, which saw their incredible harmonies soaring around the arena.

But to the sound of a bell tolling and silhouetted against giant video screens, Blunt came onto the stage to deliver a dramatic performance of a new song, How It Feels To be Alive, and then for the next ninety minutes he kept the crowd enthralled with what was a powerful performance.

Classics from his 2004 debut album, Back To Bedlam, included Wisemen, Goodbye My Lover which had the crowd singing the chorus and the unforgettable You’re Beautiful. New songs The Greatest and Champions had an anthemic feel whilst oldie Same Mistake saw the entire arena illuminated with phone lights.

His between song banter was amusing and his self deprecating wit was always evident, as he encouraged the audience to clap and sing along. Amusing with his stories, he told of the advice given by Sir Elton John who said that he should play all of his hits, to which he replied “I’m fucked then…I’ll have to play You’re Beautiful twenty odd times”.

A highlight was the return of Ward Thomas to the stage to add their delightful harmonies to Halfway, and up tempo numbers The Truth and OK, a single released by German DJ Robin Schulz featuring Blunt’s vocals, suggested that the dance grooves of his adopted home in Ibiza have had an influence.

Flitting between guitar, piano, and the ukulele for the jaunty Postcards, Blunt showed that he is so much more than that miserable song which brought him initial fame. With his profound lyrics in I Told You written for his children, and the incredibly emotional, Monsters, a stunningly raw farewell to his ailing father, he showcased his incredible talent.

Bringing the night to a close with the piano driven 1973 and Bonfire Heart which had the crowd on their feet in appreciation, this performance had certainly silenced many critics.