All photos by Chris Bethell
It’s never nice when someone does a disappearing act on you. Four years ago Jamie T, like Houdini but in a denim jacket, vanished from the earth, leaving indie kids the nation over bereft, clutching onto their copies of Panic Prevention and Kings and Queens with moist eyes and heavy hearts. Was it something we did? Something we said about your tracksuit? There were rumours he’d moved to New York, whispers that he’d become a hermit and locked himself away in his recording studio shed, and most terrifyingly, been working with members of Camden guitar twunts Tribes.
Jamie Treays first burst out of Wimbledon almost a decade ago. Alongside the likes of Mystery Jets and Larrikin Love he was hastily pigeonholed into the Thamesbeat scene – sonic shorthand for West London crusties who went to public school and looked like their life’s ambition was to open the lockgates on Regent’s Canal and maybe run a stall selling dry falafel. But Jamie T didn’t wear tie-dye and didn’t have a shit haircut. He liked Rancid, Leftover Crack and US hardcore as well as dancehall and Public Enemy and The Clash, all of which fed into his punky reggae bangers. Though his geographical references might have been local to the area he grew up in, he sung about things that reached far beyond London – drug addiction, having a fucking great time with your mates and getting your heart totally trounced.
Five years after the release of his second album, his third - titled Carry On The Grudge - is now finally on its way, set to come out on September 29. Four UK shows were revealed before its release was announced – tiny gigs in Glasgow, Liverpool, Portsmouth and London – venues dwarfed by his last run of UK shows in 2010, which included two sell out nights at Brixton Academy and a headline set in the John Peel tent at Glastonbury. I got on a train to the second show of the comeback run at the Kazimier in Liverpool. I’ve never been to the Kazimier before, but it’s pretty easy to spot just where Jamie’s playing – lads in casual wear are outside downing tinnies of Fosters while Ghost World girls in tartan offer £100 for tickets for a show which sold out in minutes.
Rocking up onstage bang on time at 9pm – it would be bad manners to be lax on timekeeping after so long away – Jamie T looks fucking great. Now 28, he’s no longer a scrawny lad, but a broad shouldered man in comfortable jeans and a grey t-shirt, with slicked back hair that, due to the stifling temperatures inside the venue, is about to get a whole lot slicker.
Opener “Limits Lie” might be a slow sizzler of a new song, but it doesn’t stop the crowd from totally and utterly losing their shit. “How's it going Liverpool,” smirks Jamie, like he’s never been away. “So good to see you all. You up for a good night?” “Don’t You Find” follows, the only publicly available track from the new album. It’s a meatier beast live than on record and everyone knows every single word already, the ‘ooh-ooh’ line giving rise to a monumental howl along, which sees Jamie grinning ear to ear. Yet it’s during the first old track of the set that really sees chaos descend on the titchy venue. As soon as the first bark of “So Lonely Was The Ballad” is unleashed, full plastic pint glasses fly through the air. The mosh pit swirls. Boys peel off their shirts. We all sing. We all dance. “Salvador” is even more hectic. Even so, the happiest person here without a doubt is Jamie himself, smirking throughout, as big burly crowdsurfing dudes ping onto the stage and place sloppy kisses on the top of his head and ruffle his hair at the end of “If You Got The Money”.
Notably, Jamie’s done away with his old band The Pacemakers and in their place is a new, young gang, who hold their own in the face of a string of stage invaders and grabbing hands. The new stuff – and there’s a fair bit of it aired tonight – is less rowdy than the evening’s older, non-stop singalong material, but as opposed to the collective sigh that usually greets an artist who says they’ll be playing new tracks, the kids down the front listen intently to the songs being debuted, like the downbeat yet driving “Mary Lee”, which sees a lovelorn Jamie crooning “what a stupid drunk boy I was to let Mary leave”. “Murder Of Crows” is equally distressed, suggesting that Jamie might possibly have spent the part five years in the throes of serious heartbreak. “They Told Me It Rained” pulses with more misery but is layered over a more redemptive ragga groove, as he quotes Madness – who in turn were riffing on Trojan artists Dave and Ansell Collins - on the fade out, singing about that “Heavy, heavy monster sound”.
A lesson in leaving the crowd wanting more, Jamie only plays for an hour. Finishing with a supremely sweaty double whammy of “The Man’s Machine” and “Sticks ‘n’ Stones” more pints fly, more sticky bodies swirl in the pit and more crowdsurfers leap onstage and convivially manhandle Jamie as he surveys the messy scene and smiles again, well and truly back in the game.