Ascended Youtube musician and reharm-fetishist Jacob Collier took to Manchester’s Gorilla this February, becoming a fully automated audio-visual experience. From negative harmony, to Grammy Flintstones, to Ted-Talking, Collier has made a name for himself as one of the most impressive young musicians of recent years.
The sold out show was, well, full, with the queue for entry reaching all the way around the venue prior to doors and inside feeling like a Northern train in the morning. An hour after doors, he bounds on stage with all the confidence and energy of a children’s gameshow host. After customary stage greetings he conducts the crowd into tunefully going ‘aaaaaaaaah’, harmonising the stage left and right before dropping into ‘With Love In My Heart’. Multiple mysterious rods on stage start to make sense as they flash from white, to blue, to green, to pink, perfectly in time with the music. Collier whizzes through all of his instruments with speed and precision, throwing upright bass licks and drum fills around whilst the crowd intermittently cheers him on.
“Do we have any musicians in the room?” he asks in between songs, as one arm of every leather jacket in the room shot up. This is one of his big appeals; the undeniable virtuosity of Collier seems to attract the adoration of musicians first and foremost. Mere mortals struggle to comprehend the clusterfuck of funk/soul/blues/jazz/pop he delivers, but music folks seem to get giddy when they can recognise that time signature change or hear that one tasty piano fill he throws in when your guard is low. As someone uniquely in between the two (I have a BTEC in being a rockstar, but now study the art of writing about bands for internet traffic), Jacob Collier hits both my ires and my desires. His outstanding musicianship makes watching him an absolute joy, but his compositions are often a stretch to describe as pleasant. An example would be his signature wailing into his harmoniser, a keys instrument that allows Jacobs voice to harmonise with a number of other digital Jacobs voices, that really starts to grate after three minutes.
Whilst the setlist had Jacob Collier sandwiched between ‘Doors’ and ‘Curfew’, it wasn’t to be a one-man-show like I expected of Collier. He takes the time to introduce his ensemble between painfully unfunny and rehearsed patter, a diverse range of musicians from Portugal, Chicago, and somewhere in the North of England. All but the drummer play a number of instruments at once with Portuguese musician Maro stealing the show with her cowbell. He talks about his new album ‘Djesse’, a project that is split into four separate volumes to be released over the next 12 months, and waxes about the childlike nature of creativity the way that you’d expect a North Londoner who’d delivered a Ted Talk to. Frankly I cannot relate to this. For all of the respect, admiration, and awe I feel towards Jacob Collier, his approach feels aloof and unrelatable. By no means was this not an incredibly enjoyable show, it was a pleasure to have the privilege to watch him and his band, but perhaps the gods should stay in Olympus with Herbie Hancock.
Jacob Collier performed at Gorilla on Wednesday 20th February 2019. Words by Kim-Rangi.