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SIFA 2018: Jacob Collier (Review)

 

Main_Jacob Collier_by Betsy Newman

Image by Betsy Newman

The modern day music prodigy showcases a legion of voices and talent in spades in his Singapore debut. 

Making a claim to fame via YouTube videos often receives a raised eyebrow in response. Much like the current generation of ‘influenzas’, there are times it seems like anyone and everyone can become a celebrity simply by gaining enough eyeballs for a post.

But for 23-year old musician Jacob Collier, that YouTube medium was the perfect launchpad for his career, and the two Grammy awards for arrangement he comes armed with are perfectly deserved. Making his Singaporean debut at the Victoria Theatre last Friday as one of the SIFA 2018 opening shows, Jacob Collier more than proves his worth as a modern day prodigy with his unforgettable One-Man Show, a special one time revival since he announced its end last December.

For all his talent, there’s something incredibly easygoing about the way Collier introduces himself, running at full speed onstage, arms outstretched to greet the theatre full of fans. Dressed in a baggy white T-shirt and colourful, loose pants, you can’t help but feel comfortable in his presence, as he launches into the innovative covers Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing (Stevie Wonder) and Close to You (Burt Bacharach) that won him attention in the first place.

Key Image - Jacob Collier. Image courtesy of Betsy Newman

Image by Betsy Newman

Considering his slender frame, there’s a surprising maturity to his sonorous voice as he mixes and warps it to form a legion of diverse sounds, an audio landscape that feels massive and far reaching. This is coupled with his signature, unique Xbox Kinect camera setup that captures his onstage movements live, adding Collier copies onscreen and multiplying him by the minute as he scampers from drumkit to piano, fingers dancing across the keys. At no point does it feel like a One-Man Show; it’s a legion of voices packed into a single boy.

His original compositions are just as favourable as his covers, with ‘Hideaway’ and the Grammy Award winning ‘You and I’ welcome, slower tunes that maintain the same writhing and unexpected flow as his faster arrangements, easily lulling one into a completely docile state as we allow the music to construct a visceral, almost palpable soundscape you swear you can reach out and touch, the screens displaying a hypnotic, kaleidoscopic vision of ‘Colliers’.

But Colliers’ true talent lies in his charm and ability to connect with the audience. There is an undeniable joy with which Colliers performs his set, and that joy spreads easily to the entire theatre. He takes immense pleasure in little musical teases, and feels completely as one with his music. Come his rendition of ‘Saviour’ off his album, he gets each half of the audience to harmonise and sing four lines of verse each, creating a haunting refrain. Collier is completely in his element and absolutely in control of all that happens onstage – all he needs to do is snap his fingers, and the audience follows suit, particularly with encore number Blackbird (The Beatles), the familiar chorus of ‘blackbird singing in the dead of night’ is elevated to transcendental levels.

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Photo from SIFA

Collier’s music feels wise beyond his years, his arrangements making old favourites feel like completely new songs, and the way he handles each and every one of his various instruments transforms the boy into a one-man orchestra. There are few words to describe watching Jacob Collier in action, a visual and aural delight from start to finish, and for any music lover, a must watch for its innovation and the sheer talent this modern music prodigy has on display.

Jacob Collier was presented as part of SIFA 2018, and performed on 27th and 28th April at the Victoria Theatre. The 2018 Singapore International Festival of the Arts runs from 26th April to 12th May across various venues. For the full lineup and ticketing details, visit the official website here

 

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