IT'S fast approaching 11pm in Vicar Street when James Blunt decides to tip his hat to someone special in the audience. "This next song is dedicated to a man called Chris," says the British singer-songwriter. "Chris Wasser." Hold on a second. Did James Blunt just call out my name on stage? I think he did.
"Is Chris there? Does anyone know him?" My God, this is actually happening. "Well, I heard that he's reviewing the gig, so Chris, this song is for you."
And with that, the former army officer-turned-music-maker launches into his biggest hit. You know the one. Maybe his label put him up to it. Perhaps he had a glance at the guest list. Either way, it's a surreal moment (for me, at least). It's also the finest example yet of Mr Blunt getting one over on his critics.
Indeed, the most reviled man in pop is a lot more likeable than most give him credit for. Sure, seeing Blunt perform is like watching a child walk for the first time. Actually, it's more like witnessing a marionette come to life; all awkward and gangly and in desperate need of direction. Yep, Thunderbird Blunt, the multi-million-selling leader of the sensitive strummers, whose globe-conquering debut Back to Bedlam was released 10 years ago, takes a while to get comfortable.
It's hard to believe then that this man's voice – rich, powerful and beautifully presented – is capable of reducing an audience to tears. I know – he's like a parody version of the posh, heart-broken, over-privileged guitar-slinger. Music's Alan Partridge, even. But you'd have to be dead inside not to feel even the slightest bit moved by Carry You Home or the gut-wrenching Goodbye My Lover.
James Blunt does morose, funeral-home folk-pop. And he does it well. Some of it is just bland balladry, but the chap certainly knows his way around a chorus. More importantly, Blunt, a charming and surprisingly funny entertainer (I can't repeat his material here), is in on the joke. People hate this guy, but does he give a damn? Nope. He's too busy opening his shows with the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey and dedicating the insipid You're Beautiful to red-faced critics.
Well played, Jimmy.