Jack Garratt // O2 Academy, Leeds // 09.11.16
Despite having won the prestigious BRIT Critic’s Choice Award in 2015 and the BBC Sound of 2016 accolade, multi-instrumentalist Jack Garratt has had to learn that awards don’t necessarily mean raving reviews. He has been critiqued for “blandness” by journalists and has struggled to win the approval of the masses. Having just completed a tour of the United States and embarking on a tour of the United Kingdom, Garratt is proving that he’s just as exciting and dynamic as the predecessors of these titles.
Opening with ‘Coalesce (Synaesthesia Pt. II)’, the opening track from his debut Phase released earlier this year, Garratt immediately grips his audience. Although the complex setup may make some appear swamped, Garratt commands the dashboard of synths, drum pads, and samplers – not to mention a full drum kit and a guitar slung over his shoulder – with confidence. He moves into ‘Breathe Life’ seamlessly. The disjointed climax of the single creates an energy throughout the crowd which can only be accredited to Garratt’s excitable demeanour on stage.
‘Weathered’ follows with its immediately recognizable dreamy intro, and Garratt moves from his keys to his guitar for the chiming melody. His voice is much less refined live than it is on the album, but this doesn’t prove an issue and in fact adds to the intensity and excitement of the show. He follows up with ‘Far Cry’ which, although my favourite on the album, loses some of its interest live. The garage bassline of the second verse overpowers the performance, and Garratt’s voice gets lost amid the myriad of sounds which seem to be battling to be heard.
A highlight of the show comes when Garratt turns to a touch of music comedy. He teases the audience with a series of possible covers, including tracks such as ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ and ‘Wannabe’ before moving into a cover of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme tune which he debuted at Glastonbury 2016. He finishes this section with a mashup of Craig David’s ‘7 Days’ and a favourite of mine, Justin Timberlake’s ‘Señorita’.
Focus is brought back to Garratt’s voice with a dreamy sample of ‘The Love You’re Given’. It’s a moment for him to showcase his talents as a multi-instrumentalist, commanding his tools and voice with ease. He follows up with his distinctive electro-pop sound found in ‘Fire’, whose rapid shifting from delicate vocals to explosive instrumentals creates an interesting live environment. ‘Surprise Yourself’ is a less exciting affair but the audience nevertheless appears gripped by the performance.
Garratt confesses to not being the encore type before a heartfelt dedication of ‘My House is Your Home’ to his fiancé; it’s the first time Garratt seems to be truly honest with his audience. The song follows in this fashion with a simple piano accompaniment, allowing Garratt to show off his raw and passionate vocals. The sombre moment is quickly moved on as he finishes with crowd pleaser ‘Worry’. At the end he moves for the first time from his dashboard to the front of the stage to complete the final guitar riff. Garratt holds his guitar up in triumph and the crowd reflect his energy – he’s truly won over the Leeds crowd, and proved the critics that labelled him “bland” completely wrong.