Jack Garratt at The O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire 4/11/2015

Jack Garratt: Photo Credit Steve Holley
Jack Garratt: Photo Credit Steve Holley

Jack Garratt’s T-shirt was adorned with the simple statement #WTFISAJACKGARRATT, a reference to a tirade of twitter abuse he received when his single, ‘Weathered’, was aired on Beats 1Radio in September, right before Drake and Future’s collaborative mix tape, ‘What A Time To Be Alive’, was premiered. Jack was quoted as saying “I hadn’t looked at my phone for a few hours, and all I got was about two hours of hate from a lot of people who weren’t very happy. It was funny”.

After seeing Jack for the second time this year at Sheperds Bush last night (the first time was at the Barn On The Farm festival in July…a refrain that is becoming a theme in my reviews and speaks volumes for the quality of that festival), I can confidently say that no amount of disgruntled tweets are likely to change the fact that Jack Garratt is here to stay.

Photo Credit Steve Holley
Photo Credit Steve Holley

He first started writing music at just 12, writing songs in his lunch break at school, and the first song he ever wrote got him a place in the GB finals for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, a fact that he shared in 2009 when, at just 17 years of age, he profiled himself for BBC introducing saying: “I’ve grown up in an awesome household, with guitars in every room of the house with some of the most musical people I could have possibly been born into”. He went on to say : “I love music and everything it does which is why I like to play a variety of instruments”.

He hails from Little Chalfont in Buckinghamshire, and does in fact play guitar, bass, drums, piano, trombone, African percussion, harmonica, mandolin and the ukulele. This is probably why it is almost impossible to pigeon hole this incredibly talented young man and why the crowd at The Empire last night, despite being wonderfully diverse, was all united in a love for this man and his music and for his engaging personality which he showcased as he chatted between powerhouse displays of musicianship.

His song, ‘Breathe Life’, was Radio One’s track of the day yesterday and shows how far he has come since his song ‘Worry’ was selected as Huw Stephens’ record of the week not that long ago, back in August of 2014. He sang both songs last night to a crowd that simply couldn’t get enough of him. When he played recent single ‘Weathered’, he dedicated it to a friend of the family, Margaret, who had recently passed away and he played it on a new guitar that he had named Margaret in memory of her. There is a wonderful acoustic version of this song performed at St Pancras Church way back in 2013 ( check it out on You Tube) and, after Jack’s moving introduction, the auditorium of the Empire hushed to such a church-like silence that I was actually conscious of the sound of my camera. His performance of this song was superb, building from the quiet intro to a blitz of synth and drum that somehow manages to marry itself perfectly with the lovely lyrics. This is a recipe that Jack has used on current single, ‘Breathe Life’ to perfection, and both songs were rapturously received last night.

Jack Garratt: Photo Credit Steve Holley
Jack Garratt: Photo Credit Steve Holley

Watching Jack perform, alone on stage, surrounded by keyboard, drum machine and computer, and clutching his guitar is like watching a wizard cast a spell. He often had his drumsticks tucked under his arm as he played keyboard, or his plectrum gripped between his teeth as he hit the drum machine with one hand and created sound effects with the other, all under a giant light shade and backed by two pulsating screens.

Both times I have seen him, it is impossible not to be blown away with the way this one man band creates music, and last night was no exception. He moved effortlessly between songs from his forthcoming album, ‘Phase’, and threw in rock-god electric guitar solos for good measure; he really is a Jack of all trades and a master of all of them.

As Jack got to the end of his 75 minute set, there wasn’t a single member of the audience that had any doubt about #WTFISAJACKGARRATT. He is fast becoming the name on every lip as he quietly becomes a fantastic bet for the BBC Sound of 2016. In the words of ‘Weathered’,”…there’s no room for doubt”. Thank you Jack for another mesmerising performance!

Steve Holley is a live music enthusiast. His son Max is a singer-songwriter. Stay tuned for more of Steve’s updates, and an interview with Max.

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