If the fashion mags are to be believed, Mark Ronson – DJ, producer and socialite – is the current “it boy” of transatlantic pop. Guys want to be him and gals, after seeing the favours he has done Lily Allen on Alright, Still and Amy Winehouse on Back to Black, want to get into his record bag. Ronson’s party-scene status, and the top-five success of his covers album, Version, in the UK charts, made this gig a hot ticket. Woe betide me, then, for admitting his tribute-bland funk leaves me a little cold.
A brassy instrumental version of Coldplay’s “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” is amusing as a fantasy 1970s cop-series theme, and Ronson revisits “Apache”, The Sugarhill Gang’s prehistoric hip-hop anthem, with gusto. Yet as his soul train trundles towards, for me, that most dreaded of destinations – acid jazz – it all feels a bit like trustafarian noodling. Ronson’s rationale is to take great songs and make them “bounce”, but there’s seldom enough genuine lift.
With their names across their chests, Ronson’s backing group resemble the house band on a television chat show. His red guitar slung over a shiny white shirt, Ronson looks like the actor Jake Gyllenhaal on a jolly. But that’s as close as the evening gets to real star power.
In true awards-ceremony style, Allen and Winehouse are unable to be with us tonight. Instead, we are asked to give it up for, er, Tawiah (no, me neither). Her vocals make a reasonable fist of Winehouse’s part on The Zutons’ “Valerie”, which – recast as a northern-soul belter – is the best thing on Ronson’s album. She is less suited, however, to Allen’s mockney-trilling of Kaiser Chiefs’ “Oh My God”. Equally, while the Motown stomp through The Smiths’ “Stop Me” is musically convincing, Daniel Merriweather’s R’n’B croon does nothing for Morrissey’s lyrics.
Covers can be a risky business, but my beef with Ronson is that he could push his versions further. Too often, he settles for parping retreads rather than properly radical reworkings. A self-satisfied attitude doesn’t help the cause.