London multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier took to the Wellington Opera House stage in a beaming performance that proved you can break musical boundaries and be playful doing it. Heralded as something of a revelation in modern music, the twenty-four-year-old gave Wellington every reason to believe with a show that took music to its full dynamic potential.
Bounding through the maze of instruments and equipment, Collier leaned out over the crowd and, with a wave of both hands, reached out to us with our voices. Divided into notes we grew into harmonies and rhythms, and as the three band-mates emerged we swelled up together and launched the evening off with the explosive With The Love In My Heart. From there we were hurtling on the rollercoaster of musical thrills that is Collier’s music. Structurally so jam-packed with different ideas that by all accounts it should come out sounding like a dog’s breakfast, yet, through raw technical skill and bold passion, it arrives as immensely awesome.
With a starting point of folk and funk, Collier’s music expands outward to encompass virtually every genre under the sun... Altogether it was a daring sonic exploration unlike any other I’ve heard, yet most remarkable was that it never felt too high-brow or inaccessible, anyone from a jazz professor to a six-year-old could find something to love.
After cycling several times through frantic absurdity, sincere respite, and soulful grandiosity, the music paused for a time, and Collier explained his project Djesse. In the last year, he released two albums of what will be a four-part series, or, as he terms it ‘a musical universe’. And ‘universe’ certainly strikes the mark. With a starting point of folk and funk, Collier’s music expands outward to encompass virtually every genre under the sun. As soon as I began to dissect a song, locate it as belonging to the realm of jazz fusion, it would perform a gravity-defying vault to dubstep folk and then, before I could catch my breath, throw itself into joyful soul-pop. Altogether it was a daring sonic exploration unlike any other I’ve heard, yet most remarkable was that it never felt too high-brow or inaccessible, anyone from a jazz professor to a six-year-old could find something to love.
This was largely due to Collier’s totally exuberant nature. Constantly leaping around the stage, one instrument was barely out of his hands before the next was taken up and played with a magnificent dexterity. In this way he moved from piano to bass to percussion to guitar and beyond, all while holding each all together with his wonderfully rich baritone voice. Amidst such sophistication and talent, he came across completely uninhibited and honest, a truly refreshing energy. It was like music had temporarily taken a human form and decided to show us what was up.
In communication with the audience, he was gracious and witty, though words were a small part of the conversation. Mostly he talked to us through instruments or his limbs, literally conjuring up a note and looking to the audience for a response. With the band offstage, many minutes were passed in wordless dialogue, whether through rich harmonies or the exchange of percussive blows, together we veered from the hilarious to the stunning to the touching. A conversation that fused seamlessly into the kaleidoscopic sounds of the evening.
Coming out to impassioned calls for an encore, Collier performed a sweetly intimate version of In My Room before taking up the one-of-a-kind synth harmonizer to project his vocals into a powerful cover of the Beatles’ Black Bird. And then, stepping forward to conduct, each section of the audience took up a note and we slowly rebuilt the beautiful song. When Collier bid us his last farewell of the night, you could feel the room had been uplifted, communally intoxicated on the transcending power of music. I look forward to his next visit, for this is definitely a musician worthy of his place on the world stage.