Jay Kay may have been worried that he was losing out to the similarly named James Bay in the “musician mostly famous for wearing a hat” stakes, so has returned after seven years away from pop with his most extraordinary headgear yet. A motorised, illuminated set of prongs inspired by scaly mammal the pangolin, it gave him his own personalised lightshow and made him look like the Statue of Liberty down the disco.
It was a futuristic sign that the 47-year-old Jamiroquai frontman is not ready to be left behind with the Nineties nostalgists. This relatively intimate warm-up concert, on the day of the release of his new album, preceded two O2 Arena shows in the summer. He announced from the stage that the album was already number one in 38 countries.
“Even I thought I was dead and buried,” he said. His last release, Rock Dust Light Star in 2010, was the first to miss platinum status. Rather than staying on the treadmill to diminishing returns, the long absence seems to have made many miss his flashy style and given him space to take a fresh approach to his slick acid jazz style.
Carla, named after the elder of his two young daughters (the other thing he’s been doing while he’s been away), strutted along on an appealing, bouncy keyboard line. Automaton, the new album’s title track, was the biggest shift in style, a robotic electro stomp that ignored the common elements of his past hits. Something About You also added sci-fi zaps, while Hot Property was more conventional with its clipped funk guitar and lyrics about fancying a lady.
He sounded retro even when he started out, which makes it easier for him to stroll back to the top, regardless of how out of step he is with the rest of today’s music, as if he’s never been away.
June 23-24, O2 Arena, SE10 (0844 824 4824, the02.co.uk)