Live: Blunt goes beyond pop hits

British singer-songwriter James Blunt has achieved perhaps the weirdest distinction in pop history. As he explained at his sold-out show Thursday at the Wiltern, he has written the most popular wedding song in Britain — his breakout hit, “You’re Beautiful,” from his double-platinum debut album, “Back to Bedlam.” He’s also written what he said has become his country’s most requested funeral song, “Goodbye My Lover.”

On Thursday, Blunt offered up “I’ll Take Everything,” from his 2007 follow-up “All the Lost Souls,” as a possible divorce song. He was joking. But given the massive popularity of his previous hits, if couples did choose a divorce soundtrack, it may as well be this, especially given his fierce delivery and muscular piano playing.

Rabid detractors, who have voted “You’re Beautiful” among the most irritating songs ever, should shudder not at the thought. “I’ll Take Everything” was among the songs delivered during an ardent 90-minute set that were actually better than Blunt’s biggest hits and showed him to be anything but a joke as a songwriter.

Blunt may be a pop-culture icon, but he never played it safe during his set. Rather, he revealed real emotion during the soaring guitar ballad “Carry You Home” and the brooding lament “No Bravery,” based on his service with the British army in Kosovo, and during which images of the war were projected behind him.

The audience focused long enough to belt their favorite songs, including the anthem-like ballad “High,” and, of course, “Goodbye My Lover” and “You’re Beautiful,” which was actually anticlimactic next to the night’s stronger songs.

Blunt showed his knack for smart, sassy pop gems in the tradition of Elton John, including the darkly sexy “Give Me Some Love,” and the rollicking “Billy.” He let his four-piece backing band loose during a cheeky cover of Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America.”

Always winning and charismatic, Blunt had a great time flirting with the audience and goofing off all night. He ended with a big finish on “So Long, Jimmy,” banging a gong that descended from the ceiling as confetti flew.

His three-song encore kept the emotion level high, especially during his rousing ballad “Same Mistake” and the dance rocker “1973.” Lingering after the house lights came up, Blunt thanked his fans and was enthusiastically thanked in return.

Following in Blunt’s much-hyped footsteps, opener Sara Bareilles delivered a winning set that highlighted her strong voice and girl-next-door charm, although the material beyond her breakout hit “Love Song” from her 2007 debut “Little Voice” was uneven.

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