19th May 2015
Anticipation is heated for young Jack Garratt tonight, as is the Academy 3 unsurprisingly, it’s always heated in here. The room is packed full of a surprising variety of young and old, all here to bare witness to Island Records’ latest protégé. His debut EP Remnant released in 2014, emerged through the buzz of online bloggers and his popularity has since grown: Garratt featured on Zane Lowe’s Future 15 of 2015 and played sold out shows in London last year.
Garratt takes to the stage in complete darkness; he shouts ‘HELLO MANCHESTER!’ then a flare of near blinding light highlights his man-bun and giant beard. There are many beards in the room tonight, including my own, but none so impressive as Garratt’s. He certainly has the hipster image and his setup as a one-man band has drawn comparisons with Ed Sheeran although his music is less on the acoustic side, a blend of bluesy guitar and bass-heavy electronica with the occasional bit of garage thrown in from his synths and drum pad.
The opening notes of single ‘Water’ gets cheers from the excitable crowd and when the bass kicks in my head descends into my ribcage only to emerge again at the end of the song. His moody bassy tunes will no doubt draw comparisons to James Blake, although he feels slightly more accessible, engaging and less dark than Blake. Garratt is certainly in a chipper mood and seems to shake off his cool persona with excitable and genuinely humble chatter that only a fledgling artist could have.
The night is plagued by technical difficulties and deep into the set Garratt becomes visibly frustrated. Vocalising these frustrations but still managing to be humble to says ‘I feel sorry for you guys, coming to see a professional gig and having to deal with this.’ The crowd attempt to rebuff this with one person screaming ‘You sound amazing out here!’ This cry seems to fall on deaf ears though and Garratt resorts to improvising lift music whilst a flushed looking sound-guy crawls about the stage before deciding to play ‘Old’, an old song in itself as it constitutes just him and guitar. You can tell that Garratt has evolved from this setup and he is a really impressive guitarist, improvising bluesy solos. Equally impressive is his voice: flexible and strong but with a delicate falsetto touch, something that could easily be taken for granted amongst the impressive production of his songs.
As he soldiers on through the set, he becomes more immersed with the music and looks like he’s enjoying himself. Before he begins final song ‘The Love You’re Given’ he comments about the hardships of being a support act (Garratt’s support slots have included Ben Howard and Jessie Ware) then thanks the crowd for ‘coming out to support new music’.
There’s no encore, even though the crowd scream for more, but the young man has depleted his catalogue. Technical difficulties haven’t stopped an incredible performance. There will be other nights, other performances to make amends. At the times of frustration tonight he seemed like a man under pressure from expectation, understandable when he was putting in a lot multitasking with live drums, synths and guitar. Part of me thinks that some of this pressure could be avoided by backing tracks or programmed drumming and he still wouldn’t lose his intense stage presence. Another part of me thinks that he will learn this over time; after all, it’s a very exciting time for him with the best yet to come from this exceptionally promising talent.
Read at Silent Radio