By rights, George Ezra should live squarely in the same bracket as Ed Sheeran, Paolo Nutini, James Morrison and all those ordinary blokes called Tom who litter the upper reaches of the charts: largely inoffensive, unless you perceive inoffensiveness as an offence itself, in which case he makes devil music. He writes tunes to soundtrack barbecues in the Home Counties, where he is from. Bit bluesy, bit brassy, high on bonhomie, exhibits a genuine fondness for the work of Mumford and Sons. He is incredibly nice, and although funny enough to land himself an invitation to guest on Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out, not, like, Lewis Capaldi funny in a way where it constitutes a key part of his #brand. And yet, and yet, something about Ezra is irresistible.
Yes, you could get annoyed with the bluesman shtick, especially when he starts one track by singing through an old victrola, his voice – which he deepened intentionally in his teens – lagged in #authentic hiss that mostly serves to expose the gaping maw between Ezra’s experience as a well-adjusted guy growing up in Hertfordshire and, you know, Howlin’ Wolf. His faux-intimate main stage living room-style set and stool perch (to be fair, he has injured his ankle) and heavily rehearsed between-song anecdotes might also grate. He tells a yarn about how he was on tour on the US west coast and everyone was having a lovely time but he was ill. The crowd is nonplussed. He tells it again, emphasising the injustice of being ill while everyone else is having a lovely time. This, in Ezra’s musical universe, is strife. Second time around, the crowd get their arse in gear and commiserate and cheer at the right spots. This, he tells us, is when he got the idea for the song Paradise. Someone get Hollywood on the line to snap up the biopic rights. Then he plays Paradise, which is relentlessly cheery, has too many words in the chorus, like a pre-braces teenager with a mouthful of jagged teeth, and a panto-worthy call and response bit. AND YET: it’s a dream – silly, chipper, charming, lapped up like a cool breeze by a Pyramid stage crowd stacked to Coldplay proportions.
There are some duff bits. Hold My Girl is the National’s I Need My Girl minus the existential crisis. Bursts of tough, serious-minded electric guitar portend a Ben Howard-style disavowal of a mainstream audience. Everything is lagged with brass, sickly and shining. But he also has Shotgun, a sunny scud of a song that obliterates cynicism and manages to pull off the lyric “alligator, see you later”. I know – I don’t know who I am any more, either. But, in this miserable day and age, only a churl would resist Ezra’s sunbeam blast of charisma.