Jack Peñate is doing rather well. If it was always obvious that his brand of ska-influenced energetic indie pop would so quickly result in top five hits, magazine covers and a headlining nationwide tour, from his look of bewilderment all night, Jack himself still was none the wiser.
Johnny Flynn‘s talented five-piece hillbilly band opened the evening, drawing a big crowd for an early support slot and showcased some decent, if a little old-fashioned, songs. They weren’t quite so ably matched by Wild Beasts, whose weak songs and their singer’s strange falsetto voice made them the target for a fair few plastic cups. They did well to put a brave face on and last out their set.
By the time Peñate bounded on, the packed-out Astoria were ready for one of the year’s big success stories. Backed just by his bassist and drummer, he started proceedings with previous single Spit At Stars and Goodbye Baby – both upbeat and energetic. The crowd was right there with him, singing along from the outset. Jack had a look of bewilderment on his face, suggesting that he didn’t quite know how he’d got to this point, although you have to wonder if he’s always got that look about him. It certainly endears him to his audience. He even took a Polaroid of them, and you get the feeling he’s having a lot of fun at the moment, that he didn’t expect all of this attention so quickly, and that he’s going to enjoy the ride nonetheless.
As he bounced around the stage, clutching his guitar and made his way through the setlist, it did become apparent that a lot of his songs have a very similar sound. However it’s a sound that’s going down pretty well, and it’s good to have some spiky pop songs in the charts. He attempted to mix things up a little with a couple of ballads, including My Yvonne, for which his mate and fello de facto member of the LDN scene Adele, turned up and helped out on vocals. It was a shame that her sound didn’t really come through, and she looked a little uncomfortable. Still, a useful introduction to another star in the making.
Unsurprisingly dressed down, and with scruffy hair, Jack’s got a really loveable aura about him. Cute and chatty, he even got involved in a little scuffle going on in front of him, successfully asserting a bit of authority and managing to break peace out again. He managed to link that event smoothly into his following song Run For Your Life, which was about being mugged. It provided one of the highlights of the gig. His biggest success so far, Torn On The Platform, and forthcoming single Second, Minute Or Hour, were greeted with enthusiasm and word-for-word joining-in from the crowd.
He also threw in a cover version of Dub Be Good To Me, Beats International‘s classic, which was a lot of fun, even if he’d be well advised to not make too much use of that falsetto.
All in all, a good gig by a lad with a lot of charm and some good songs. He may be of the moment, and if he can’t create different sounds the novelty will wear off before too long, but it’s nice to him have him around for now at least.