Show Review: Jacob Collier

RISE Music Series at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, September 7, 2017

Review by Claire Marie Lim

As part of the RISE Music Series curated by Berklee alums Shea Rose and Simone Scazzocchio, British musical phenomenon Jacob Collier played to a full house at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. A two-time Grammy award winner and an exceptionally skilled multi-instrumentalist, writer, and producer, Collier presented a show filled with loops, live percussion, bass, guitar, keys, and his idiosyncratically harmonized voice – the epitome of a one-man band.

Prior to the main act, the night began with an easy-going set of jazz-infused hip hop and electronica by DJ L’duke, followed by a medley of original tunes by French artist-producer DOMi. DOMi stunned the crowd with her technical and musical acrobatics on keys and synths, accompanied by Snarky Puppy’s dynamic drummer Robert “Sput” Searight, as well as her fellow Berklee students Declan Miers on the electric bass and Yesseh Furaha-Ali on the saxophone. Mixing neo-soul elements with upbeat funk grooves, DOMi’s ensemble undoubtedly wet the palettes of the audience members in anticipation of the night ahead.

Soon after, all eyes and ears were at the mercy of Jacob Collier once he set foot on the Calderwood Performance Hall’s floor, singing his way to center stage. In a move that exemplified his musicality, Collier’s solo vocal line served as a seamless transition into his chorale-esque arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing,” utilizing a keyboard harmonizer built by his long-term MIT collaborator Ben Bloomberg. Bloomberg was imperative in the construction of Collier’s touring rig, and also managed the technicalities of the show that night.

Assisted by Collier’s friendly musings and animated demeanor, sonic excitement built steadily through the evening as he dropped a re-harmonized rendition of Burt Bacharach’s “Close to You,” and an intimate original titled “Hideaway.” An unquestionable highlight of the night was Collier’s tune “Don’t You Know,” initially collaborated with Snarky Puppy. A groovy arrangement with odd-meters that kept even the most attentive of listeners on the edges of their seats, Collier engaged the crowd with his energetic tambourine hits while running across the room. Another original Collier earworm “Saviour” saw the greatest amount of audience participation that night. Separating the crowd into two, Collier swiftly led both halves of the audience in a sing-along of interlocking lines, perhaps made easier because of the sheer number of fervent music college attendees.

As the night went on and Collier prepared for his concluding number, he revealed with a sense of nervous excitement that his Boston concert that night would likely be the last run of his one-man performance set. Without leaving time for noises of disappointment from the audience, he revealed that his new show was in the works, with a different format in support of his live music arrangements. To an outburst of enthusiastic cheers, Collier finally presented his take on George Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm,” a truly fascinating rhythmic exploration that featured a wittily-realized melodica segment, culminating in a well-deserved standing ovation.

It is by no means an exaggeration that Jacob Collier is an embodiment of contemporary musicianship, combining an astonishingly mature artistic sensibility with technical and technological prowess. One can only wonder what the future holds for him and his music, as he embarks on developing a novel live rig and releasing more new creations. While Collier continues to share his works with loyal fans and spontaneous YouTube viewers alike, we can surely look forward to seeing what spectacles will come out of his brilliant 22-year-old mind.

Set list (all numbers performed solo by Jacob Collier):

-Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing – Stevie Wonder, arr. Jacob Collier

-Close to You – Burt Bacharach & Hal David, arr. Jacob Collier

-Hideaway – Jacob Collier

-Don’t You Know – Snarky Puppy feat. Jacob Collier & Big Ed Lee, arr. Jacob Collier

-In My Room – The Beach Boys, arr. Jacob Collier

-Down The Line – Jacob Collier

-Saviour – Jacob Collier

-You and I – Stevie Wonder, arr. Jacob Collier

-Fascinating Rhythm – George Gershwin, arr. Jacob Collier

Tune into Claire’s BIRN show “ElectriCute!” with dolltr!ck for more electronic music curations at 4pm every Tuesday of the Fall 2017 semester.

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