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Jack Peñate’s latest, world-spanning songs came alive at the intimate Bruar Falls, against a parachute backdrop bathed in fiery sunset tones.  It was a perfect, short set, made up of seven of the nine songs from the Londoner’s new, appropriately-titled album, Everything is New.  “It feels lovely to be back in America,” Peñate says at one point, all smiles. Last time we saw Peñate play a low-key CMJ day party, he was merely a talented, tad-too-heartfelt, showy kid.  Now he’s gone and grown up, armed with a startlingly fresh new album that belies his 25 years.

As NME recently raved about the singer’s smart about face, “He used to sound like the past, now he sounds like the future.” It’s also not hard to see why the young Peñate, blessed with golden pipes, not only once took off a year of school and instead took on the West End as one of Fagin’s gang kids in a London production of Oliver!, directed by Sam Mendes, but is also best friends with British pop singer Adele and close with touring pals Lily Allen and Kate Nash.

Though he and his three-piece band had some reservations about technical issues at the onset of tonight’s show, it was smooth sailing within minutes and their sound was mystifyingly epic for such a small venue.  Perhaps not so mystifying, since the talented band is tight and near-perfect, and they’d probably sound just as good playing unplugged in a roofless barn.  (Props also go to Cakeshop’s Andy Bodor, who opened the Falls in late April, and obviously put effort into a quality PA).

Swarms of fans, many British, mainly female, were already familiar with happy Jack’s latest tunes, and pressed near the front of the stage to dance.  Seeing that his new material has traded the buoyant, ska meets Wham-esque vibe of his 2007 debut album, Matinée, for a more worldly, nuanced, mix of clubby dance, calypso, African jangles, and synths, the few who weren’t caught up in the beats tonight were in the minority.  “Tonight’s Today”, the contagious single, was a blazing treat, even better live, played midway through the set.–MVW/photo by Tim Nestor