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To describe Jamie Woon as pedestrian is meant as praise. Much perambulating goes on in his music, mainly of the contemplative, solitary variety. He has a walker’s eye for the limitless possibilities that unfold beneath London’s oppressive canopy of clouds. Songs find him “lost on my own lonely mile” observing “10,000 greys in the sky”, a photographic negative of the cosmopolitan life teeming on the city’s streets.
“If you don’t know where you’re walking to,” he sang at the Forum, “movement is the motivation tonight.” His path to the midsized venue has been slow, defying a musical climate that places value on constant productivity. It took him four years to record his first album, 2011’s Mirrorwriting, and then a further four years for the follow-up, the aptly titled Making Time. A ruptured Achilles tendon derailed plans to tour his debut. It was sustained during an unwise burst of speed, playing football.
The eerie electronic tones resonating as the lights went down at the Forum suggested that an introspective evening lay ahead — but then a clean funk rhythm cut through the darkness and Woon began singing “Movement”. His airy high tones were set to an irresistible walking bassline, a groove to settle into. Playing acoustic guitar, he was accompanied by a compact but impressive backing troupe numbering two singers, a drummer, a keyboardist and a bassist.
Imagery of natural life and searching for the source of things suggested a hippy-ish mentality (Woon’s mother is a folk singer). The swooning harmonies and chants of “love” at the end of “Message” briefly evoked the memory of Crosby, Stills and Nash. But the music mainly followed a sophisticated urban soundtrack of soul, electronic music and R&B, with splashes of acid-jazz noodling supplied by the flat-cap-wearing keyboardist.
Influences were musicians who march to their own beat. D’Angelo could be heard in the dreamy mantra “Dedication”, while Innervisions-era Stevie Wonder was summoned by the joyfully upbeat “Sharpness”. In the encore, Woon played two songs alone on the acoustic guitar, initially silencing chattering audience members, then moving them to whoops and applause. “I ran when I should have walked,” he sang, a tortoise learning to bide his time in a world of hares.
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