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In intimate setting, Morrison is sublime

James Morrison James Morrison ( )

CAMBRIDGE -- Tiny T.T. the Bear's Place seemed an unlikely club to find 3-million-album-selling British pop-soul singer James Morrison performing.

Given that his debut, "Undiscovered," hit the Billboard charts at No. 24 upon release in March, it was unsurprising that his show there on Tuesday night sold out weeks ago. Morrison is already booked to play the Paradise in July, so T.T.'s intimate setting, given Morrison's sweetly sublime hourlong set, was an absolute treat.

Let's dispense with the fumbling comparison to that other British James: everyone's whipping boy James Blunt , with whom Morrison possibly shares naught but a name and a keen intelligence. As to resembling Coldplay's Chris Martin , another heartthrob Morrison's been compared to; really, the slightly built 22-year-old looked more like a cute, hawkish Bob Dylan circa "Highway 61 Revisited." Do his looks matter? The girls issuing stadium-size screams thought so.

Performing with a pianist, who also added some cool turns on harmonica, and proving no slouch on acoustic guitar, Morrison included a telling cover of Van Morrison's hymnlike "And It Stoned Me." His old-school blue-eyed soul roots were showing. But Morrison is less classic and more plain classy, avoiding trite vocal theatrics and nimbly tucking his sandpaper-rubbed voice around a lyric.

He chatted in between songs, remarking that the Fenway, as the Red Sox played their home opener, was "the craziest [expletive] place I've ever been." True that. He also told a story about a mad drunk on a bus for whom he may or may not have written "Wonderful World," a gorgeous, rousing version of which followed the tale.

He sailed and soared through "You Give Me Something," which the audience clearly adored, joyously singing along on the catchy chorus. The elegant, dramatic finale, "The Last Goodbye," which was backed only by piano and stung with palpable heartache, was all his, though. Accompanied by a guitarist, California singer-songwriter Jessie Baylin added the odd vocal mannerism -- a slight yelp here, a jazzy bent there -- to her impressive opening set. But, mostly, she kept things simple and was all the more powerful for it.


James Morrison

With Jessie Baylin

At: T.T. the Bear's Place, Tuesday night