Friday, 7 August 2009
SubVersion Stop 17: Natalie Imbruglia + Murray James @ 02 Academy, Oxford
A row of umbrellas pitch like sandcastles outside the 02 Academy's four walls. A mixture of middle-aged, twenty-somethings and teeny boppers congregate. We're in thick, pouring rain, everyone's soaked, so what's initially appreciated is medication for the system, and if we're lucky, a torch of real promise musically.
Murray James is not carrying it. A mongrel version of Sting swallowing a handful of sleeping pills, dragged onto the stage half-cut, then subjected to ten shots of snakebite before cobbling together the faintest traces of melody, pulse and harmony, cackling like a sub-par Amy Winehouse, into a puke-making assemblage of office-worker-dull tunes, and all that springs to mind here is David Walliams Little Britain character re-enacting "Computer says no." No. Never again. Please, I'm begging you.
When ideas aren't operating smoothly, focus diminishes. It is natural and occurs because the ideas have got stale or we have lost the ability to accurately perceive. Strapping on your guitar like you're ready to fly a plane couldn't be worse when the proceeding forty minutes summons up a nosedive of proportions akin to slipping on a dog turd while forced into reading a copy of the Daily Mail in a prosaic state of imagining.
After an abysmal start, who could lead-in with such a restorative, rejuvenating hour-and-a-half than Natalie Imbruglia. I swear my heart skipped a beat when she entered the vicinity; she looks stunning. Singing aloft a hefty four-to-the-floor kick, this outing is noticeably weightier than her works on 97's "Left Of The Middle". Announcing her collaboration with Coldplay's Chris Martin to receptive cheers, the newly rendered pieces exhibited are meaty, not fragile, unlike old Murray James, who had more holes in his performance than a game of Crazy Golf.
She entices uproarious applause by number three with "Torn", her biggest hit, which sat at number one on the UK charts in 1997 for fourteen weeks. "You don't know where my head is at" she sings between vocoders, wearing a top hat and trading blinks with her fans.
If she pulled out a bunny, the whole shebang could have been otherworldly rather than annoyingly pedestrian. "Shiver" and "Wishing I Was There" top off the highlights of this captivating evening, from two different corners of the critical spectrum.
Natalie Imbruglia: MySpace
Murray James: MySpace
Natalie Imbruglia: Website