Review: Jacob Collier at Howler, Melbourne, 2 May 2018
Never before has a small venue been packed out by so many music nerds. Hundreds desperate to see the genius and prodigy that is Jacob Collier on his first Australian tour. It would not be a stretch to say that many of the jazz music devotees in the audience had rarely been to a standing room only venue such as Melbourne’s Howler. But crammed into the sticky beer stained carpet band room the audience eagerly awaited to receive the modern jazz music orgasm that awaited.
The 23-year-old Grammy winner is a multi-instrumentalist, harmoniser and charming gentleman. He brought his one-man show to Australia for the first time with a couple of gigs in Sydney and Melbourne. The stage had synthesisers, guitars, upright bass, drum kit, grand piano, melodica and all musical trinkets you can imagine. There was no band, just Collier rushing around the stage, looping and layering constantly as he dashed from corner to corner.
Collier played originals from his 2016 debut LP In My Room and almost unimaginable arrangements of Stevie Wonder, George Gershwin, Burt Bacharach and the goddam Beatles. The audience full of musicians is encouraged to join in – more than just clapping the beats, beautiful harmonies are made. The finale of the show was a 12-minute cover of the Beatles classic ‘Blackbird’ that had the audience literally “singing in the night”.
This reviewer confesses he is not even close to educated enough to comprehend some of the challenging and astounding features of Collier’s performance. After running out of breath dashing around in a cover of a track by US jazz group Snarky Puppy, Collier let us know he had just been modulating between seven and five beats to the bar… woah!
Collier has an incredible ability to manage the busy stage of looping instruments and engage in beautifully accomplished microtonal voice leading. Okay, we may have just learnt that last bit at the bar talking to some of his dedicated and musically educated fans – but any music fan can appreciate the genius of Collier when he is simultaneously plucking the frets of the guitar behind his back while his other hand plays the grand piano.
Collier challenges every stereotype of jazz music and composition but as a human being he is the beautiful stereotype of a polite English gentleman. You could not imagine this young prodigy so much as curse when he stubs his toe, such is his gracious manner. On this occasion there was a beautiful moment where Collier stopped for a moment to point out that his year five school teacher was in the Melbourne audience and thanked her for making year five the greatest time of his life.
Here we are, writing a review of the most incredible performance by the most incredible of creators, and we can’t help but feel quite humbled by the experience. Collier may not be back in Australia for a little while, but there’s no doubt he will return and it is sure to be a far larger show, far more expensive and still so worth it.