Jamie Woon

Jamie Woon


Here’s a little list of things that are widely considered to be smooth: glass; mirrors; velvet; caramel; baby’s bottoms; Jamie Woon. Seriously, the dude is smooth AF. Tonight, in Manchester’s brilliant Gorilla, Woon seduces the crowd with his unbelievably soulful, funky RnB, and we are all, collectively, both a little bit in love with him and right in the palm of his (probably) smooth hands.

The set up is simple: Woon with his acoustic guitar and electric voice; two properly incredible backing singers; a bassist, and a keyboard player. There’s no flashy lights, no distracting backdrop, it’s just these five bringing Woon’s two albums wonderfully to life in a way which they never quite reach on record. This is my slight apprehension about this evening’s gig: Woon’s two albums are both 6/10 affairs, but if you combined the best of both into one it would reach more like 9/10. For some reason, he can’t quite seem to sustain the quality across a whole LP, but boy when he hits, he hits hard. In the live arena, this matters not; Woon can swish through the best of Mirrorwritting and Making Time and in the process deliver my favourite gig of the year so far (it’s that good) by cherry picking the songs that could make that single great LP.

Opening with the superb ‘Movement’ and the early hit ‘Night Air’, Woon wastes absolutely no time making everyone get down, and when I start dancing, I pretty much don’t stop for the rest of the night. The elastic bass lines, the scattering percussion, and the afore mentioned incredible backing singers, combine to make everyone’s feet move to Woon’s tune. ‘Forgiven’, from last year’s Making Time, is given an extended outing, with the end almost descending into scatting as Woon and the backing singers duel with vocal ticks over smooth (that word again) funk – trust me, it’s a lot better than that makes it sound. When the percussion section get a rest, Woon stands front and centre with just his acoustic guitar and wows the assembled mass with a solo version of ‘Skin’ (a trick he revisits on the stunning ‘Shoulda’ during the encore), his voice at once delicate and powerful, showcasing the range which makes the crowd’s hearts melt.

And just when you thought he couldn’t do anything more to completely win you over, his backing singers start up with ‘It’s been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you, step to, step to’ as the band break into the seminal Aaliyah track ‘Try Again’, a cover version that whilst obviously never reaching the heights of the original, elevates the gig up  another level. His best song, ‘Sharpness’, is saved for last, a song which should have been a huge number 1, a song that outshines anything that The Weeknd and similar RnB superstars currently enjoying chart success have ever done. It’s just brilliant, the perfect end to the main set. As Woon and his band exit the stage, this being Manchester, chants of ‘Woon-ey, Woon-ey’ start up, and he reappears to deliver that solo version of ‘Shoulda’; the chants long gone, you can hear a pin drop as Woon’s silky voice drifts above the crowd’s gentle bobbing heads. The band reassemble for another track, and then gather centre stage for bows and applause, humbly lapping up the adoration thrown back at them. Tonight has been pretty damn special, and I can only hope that Woon makes that 9/10 album at some point and is given the chance to make more people get down to his smooth brand of slick RnB.

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