Jack Garratt at The Olympia, Dublin, 30th March 2016
Pinstriped lights and pure delight. Jack Garratt raises his arms in triumph, a be-hatted silhouette against blue neon spotlights, and the zealous crowd surges forward to the feet of their messiah. “AHAHA! I fucking love this country, you guys are incredible” – and the bass drops, throbbing through the ribs of revelers come to worship at the high altar of The Olympia.
Critically, Garratt is stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. Lauded by the mainstream press, in recent months he’s picked up both the BBC Sound of 2016, and 2016 Brits Critics Choice awards. Yet there are also those who label him ‘bland’, dismissing his music as name drop beats for the Urban Outfitters, try-hard cool gang. Either way, tonight’s gig isn’t about proving a point. From the opening ticking guitar of ‘Water’ through to the ecstatic skip hop of Worry, Garratt is here for the crowd, and here for a party.
On stage he cuts a lonely figure, ensconced in a hemisphere of drumkit, guitar, leads and mysterious boxes which emit squiggling Martian bleeps. Like a maniacal loop-pedal wizard, he leaps between it all with decisive triangular movements, perfectly executed. For Dublin, he’s added an extra layer of complexity – it’s the first time he’s performed the drum solo which precedes Breathe Life, beseeching the crowd to “Be extra specially nice..I’m doing like seven things at once”. There’s no need for pleas though – breaks between (and during) songs are liberally peppered with the audience’s amorous shouts. If Garratt has ever harboured paternal desires, he’s now got plenty of willing helpers.
Indeed, he’s so engaging that the whole thing feels like a Jack/Dub love-in. Garratt grins in warm disbelief as the crowd sing the entirety of the anthemic Weathered, his role reduced to that of backing instrumentalist. Roars of approval greet his self-deprecatory introduction to Far Cry – “My favourite track from this thing I did recently…which was my album called ‘Phase’”, followed by a slide into a Craig David/Justin Timberlake mashup. It’s deliberately vintage ’90s cool, recrafted to fit the Garratt musical mould (sudden stops, bass drops and unwinding synths) but who cares, we want to dance.
Therefore, the only real low point comes with the misjudged sensitivity of Surprise Yourself. It’s not what we need right now – the lyrics are straight out of Instagram, tumbling over with dogged aspiration and an unerring quest for self-improvement; plus it’s just too quiet. Garratt’s tortured falsetto imploring us to “Take a pen and write this down/ Draw something that can’t be found” fails to conquer the general sniggering and shouts of “G’WAN THE GINGERS”. Garratt himself seems breezily unfazed by this (clearly we just don’t ‘get’ the unfathomable depths of his inner emotional torment), and cheerily returns to form, closing out the set with the leaping crowd pleaser Worry.
There’s no encore, and that feels right. Garratt’s set is a neatly parceled experience – each song catchy whilst it’s there, yet individually immediately forgettable. The lasting impression is of a consummate showman whose live performance surpasses his album. It is exactly as it should be; the audience spat out from the belly of The Olympia into the streetlight grime of Dame Street, left with a blurred hangover of falsetto and thudding bass. Cheers Jack; seems that Ireland loves you too.