Jacob Collier, the magician of a cappella and multi-instrumental explosions on YouTube is about to step onto the stage of the Powerstation, Auckland. Everyone is here early. They’re a real nice twenty-something crowd dotted with older folk, not a lot in between. Can it be parents chaperoning?? There is even a grandmother reading a novel in the glow of lights from the loo. I kid you not.
But there is a really exciting vibe here, even if the venue isn’t full. On stage, there are light bulbs set on stalks. A Yamaha grand is centre stage with a soft crocodile (of course its name is Djesse) sitting a-top. Two drum sets, three sets of keyboards and an array of wiring, laptops, guitars, and more basses than you can shake a stick at. Not sure where Jacob and Co will fit.
It’s Monday night in Auckland but this feels like we’ve been invited to a special party. Jacob arrives on stage and I’m right, this is the right night and the right guy. He directs the crowd in an improvised song on the spot. Great start, we are all his eager choir for the night and we’re loving it. With The Love In My Heart, Collier capers around in different multi-coloured socks and billowing purple Balinese pants.
Both the first number and the second song, Djesse, Collier is a Jack let out of a tightly wound up box. He bounces all over the stage from piano to drums to keys to bass. Even as he tears around the stage he lands in what seem to be the right chords, the right riff. It is a dazzling display of virtuoso playing on multi-instruments.
I suppose at the age of twenty-four when you’ve already won two Grammy awards, opened for Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea and been taken under the wing of Quincy Jones, you are going to be just a little talented. But let’s not hold that against him, and some have, let’s open up to his sounds and go for full immersion.
There were so many parts and the classical/jazz piano solo on the album was fractured on stage by the sheer energy of its main performer. The effect is totally zanily manic... Only Collier could do that with so much deft wit.
Luckily in song three, Collier paused a little and allowed us to sit in his sound. The excellent lighting gave us introspective deep reds highlighted by golden lamps on their ‘flower’ stalks. The soft Bossanova-style vocals of fellow musician MARO led the way into maybe Collier’s greatest hit so far, the beautiful Hideaway from his debut album of 2016. Collier says himself that penning a song is just the beginning of the process, that on tour he and his musicians find songs evolve into something new. And here the crowd took the song and added in the chorus “take me anywhere you wanna go” and the piece billowed through the Powerstation.
Collier then let rip into Don’t You Know also from his debut album with its pulsing electronic beat and funky bass. Here we witnessed his astonishing custom-built vocal “Harmoniser” designed and created in collaboration with musical hardware/software whizz Ben Bloomberg. In performance, this complex but utterly intriguing song lost some of its cogency. There were so many parts and the classical/jazz piano solo on the album was fractured on stage by the sheer energy of its main performer. The effect is totally zanily manic. In a peak of madness, the tambourine is hurled at the drum set. Only Collier could do that with so much deft wit.
This is Collier’s first-ever show in New Zealand. Certainly it’s not a packed crowd and when he asks how many in the audience are musicians almost everyone raises their hand. This audience really decodes Collier’s music and celebrates this hugely intelligent maestro of musical innovation.
The magical jewel of the evening was Feel, also my favourite from his second Djesse album. Truly gorgeous tones again from MARO, rippling piano counterpoint and warm harmonies from the whole band were spellbinding. Following with a confection of Bacharach’s Close To You funked up and put through a kaleidoscope of Collier harmonies. A lovely subtle solo from MARO with her song in Portuguese Mariana morphed almost too soon into Hajanga via Collier’s superb guitar intricacies.
This lush evening led into an extended version of Daniel Caesar’s Best Part in which the audience provided round after round of “where you go I follow, no matter how far...”. Maybe they were hoping they could manifest Caesar onto the stage as he did in Collier’s Toronto gig. But there was already an abundance of talent with Fascinating Rhythm returning to Collier’s manic genius with scorchingly great sounds from two other incredible musicians on stage with Collier - Robin Mullarkey and Chris Euman.
Monday night has never partied so well. The crowd didn’t want to leave and the evening extended into improvisations with Collier directing the crowd in wave after wave of beautiful sounds and beats. There were funky foot stomps, there were bird whistles, and vocal effects in the biggest jam session ever. Definitely the most fun in a concert, come back to New Zealand soon Jacob Collier and band, it’s been a blast.
Jacob Collier's setlist in Auckland, NZ
- With the Love in My Heart
- Don’t You Know
- Close to You
- Best Part
- Fascinating Rhythm
- In My room