By Thomas Watkins

Jamie Cullum had his work cut out by the time he took to the stage at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday night. His mission: revive the 10,000-plus audience from their slumping, Wednesday night jazz trance wrought by too much wine, midweek and an excessively chilled warm-up band.

Cullum wasn’t going to let a little thing like a flagging audience stop himself from having a good time. It was his birthday after all – the Essex boy turned 29 – and Cullum was ready to entertain.

“You’ll have to excuse me if I smile like an idiot the whole way through,” Cullum said, before stomping out a couple of introductory numbers on his piano, ably assisted by the Big Band sounds of the Count Basie Orchestra. “I couldn’t ask for a better birthday present.”

Cullum’s enthusiasm quickly percolated all the way up to the distant cheap seats, restoring energy levels that had been sapped by warm-up band The Christian McBride Situation.

McBride – widely believed to be one of the best bassists alive today – himself sounded great, but his freewheeling tunes frequently drifted too far into the realm of the abstract. Fine maybe in an intimate jazz bar but so wrong at an outdoor mega venue.

McBride returned to the stage for an impromptu song with Cullum. Plucking an upright, the bass legend’s skills were a great accompaniment for Cullum’s crisp voice.

Pounding at the piano, Cullum seemed to channel the spirit of Rolf from the Muppets and ably demonstrated a broad range of styles flitting from Radiohead’s “High and Dry” one moment to Cole Porter “I Get a Kick out of You” the next.

“You won’t be hearing that one on Sunday,” Cullum said, observing that Radiohead are playing the bowl this weekend and the band likes to punish its fans by never playing any of their decent songs live.

By the end of the night, Cullum had the Bowl at his feet. Where he celebrated the rest of his birthday is anyone’s guess, but it likely wasn’t a quiet do.