Three days after first writing about my love for Jamiroquai in The Funk Is Here To Stay, Mum surprised me after work with the news that she’d booked two tickets for us to see the band live at Arena Birmingham in November. I was thrilled and overjoyed in equal measure, since I could not have wished for a better first concert to attend, and spent the next few months adamant that it would the unquestionable highlight of my year. The big day came around in what seemed like the blink of an eye, and last night the wait was over as Mum and I found ourselves seated in the arena with a clear view of the stage ahead. Around us, the seats were gradually filling up as a steady stream of standing spectators also made their way in, leaving very little free space by the time Jamiroquai walked on to widespread screams of adulation at around 8:30pm. Those who weren’t already at their seats were seemingly late because their determination to get a pint in the bar queue eclipsed their hunger for the music – more fool them, because here was one show nobody should want to miss a second of.
As Mum and I finished our own beers – Heinekens presented in a plastic equivalent of the normal green glass bottle – the atmosphere in the arena was one that, as Murray Walker once said, you could cut with a cricket stump. The fans present were comprised of the young and old alike, and all including myself gave an equally loud and rapturous reception to the montage of video clips that heralded the start of the gig, fitting with the theme of the Automaton album they represented. Sections of various news reports and TV programmes warned us of the potential rise of robots and machines in society, as swathes of colour and computer graphics accompanied it on the other screens. With that, the evening was underway, and Jay Kay (appropriately behatted with his new colour-changing electronic headpiece) and co emerged to begin an infectious two-hour set, starting with Automaton‘s opening track, “Shake It On”. From the very first note, it became even clearer than before that I was in the presence of some exceptionally talented musicians, as well as a Jay who had not lost a single shred of his ability to sing, dance or have an audience eating out of the palm of his hand. I was a willing contributor to every deafening roar that responded to his performances and between-song banter, and the band definitely made sure to pull out the crowd-pleasers. I would rate “Space Cowboy”, “Cosmic Girl”, my personal favourite “Canned Heat” and encore finale “Virtual Insanity” as the songs that drew the biggest audience participation, although my voice was almost hoarse – along with plenty of others – from belting out every tune that Jamiroquai treated us to. I have not felt as alive as I was then for some time, swept up in a wave of disco hysteria and adrenaline amongst the addictive rhythms. Another notable inclusion in the set was “(Don’t) Give Hate a Chance”, chosen in tribute to those killed in May at the Manchester Arena, while “Too Young to Die” was performed live for the first time in 15 years, according to Jay. There was even something for the hardcore aficionados in the form of 1994 album track “The Kids” – a song even I didn’t know the words to!
The whole show really was a treat for all the senses. There was ear joy from both the music and the wildly enthusiastic audience, a feast for the eyes thanks to the abundance of colour – both from the big screens and Jay’s hat – and the rows of (sometimes drunken) dancing fans leaping from their seats to boogie, the feel of my £20 souvenir programme, which really will be something to cherish with the gig itself, the taste of my ice-cold Heineken and even the smell of chips and vinegar from some of the other seats. Everything about last night will stay vividly in my mind forever, but the mighty Jamiroquai were, of course, its crowning glory – and I just hope there’s plenty more where that came from. I left with a huge smile plastered on my face and a sense of joy that will never leave me, having been blessed with a night’s entertainment from a group of musical heroes that can never be taken away. I have now promised Mum that I’ll have to buy her a concert ticket or two very soon!