Jamie Lenman @ King Tut's, Glasgow, 6 May
Looking back on Jamie Lenman’s winding career path it seems relevant to compare him to his old friend and collaborator Frank Turner. Both are singer-songwriters from the Home Counties who made their names with much-loved post-hardcore bands (Lenman led Reuben and Turner fronted Million Dead) before exploring folk on solo records. The most obvious difference is that Turner plays arenas and Lenman headlines small venues like King Tut’s.
Nevertheless, Lenman seems thrilled to be here tonight, pandering to the crowd by changing words from his new track All of England is a City and regaling them with tales of getting lost in Tollcross. The packed out crowd reciprocate with genuine warmth and affection as if he’s an old friend who’s stopped by. There are certainly plenty of Reuben fans present judging by the reception offered to old classics like Blitzkrieg and Best Enemies, but they’re equally enthusiastic for chirpy acoustic numbers like Shotgun House.
One noticeable change from Lenman’s last tour is the absence of a backing band. Given Lenman’s debut album Muscle Memory features both thrash metal and big band jazz tracks, it’s odd to see Lenman accompanied solely by his drummer Dan Kavanagh. Despite the breadth of his material, Lenman’s emotive delivery and magnetic stage presence mean the set flows surprisingly well. Even when he announces an imminent genre change, he does so with characteristic charm (“Who here loves heavy metal? I fucking love heavy metal. Let’s go.”)
Even ignoring his clear technical ability, that charm is probably the best attribute Lenman possesses. Veteran artists often appear awkward trying to indulge different elements of their fanbase when they’ve changed style, but Lenman somehow retains his lovable personality despite multiple reinventions.
Set closer Cities on Fire fittingly sums up these various moods: Lenman strums a light intro before roaring into one of the heaviest sections of the night. The track closes emphatically as Lenman declares: “Books and memories, we burned it all.” Luckily for his fans still tripping on nostalgia, he’s willing to indulge them regardless.