There is nothing in the world quite like watching Jacob Collier live.
This multi-Grammy-winning wunderkind rose to global adoration when he began posting unbelievably innovative covers of well-loved classics (From Stevie Wonder hits to the Flintstones theme) on Youtube. Unthinkably complex musical renditions were presented in split-screen videos, and the world didn’t take to fall in love with this almost unrealistic bundle of talent.
A few years later, NCPA Mumbai saw Collier present some of his most loved songs. It clarified that the love for Collier has only grown.
Even for those well-acquainted with his music (and that was the whole audience), Collier can be hard to follow. Being known for unpredictable, bewildering, and delightful improvisation, he regaled the audience by reaching musically in all possible directions. Oft-played favourites like “With the love in my heart,” “Djesse,” “Feel,” “Hideaway,” and “Make Me Cry” were presented in almost new avatars. Collier and his entourage of musical conquistadors spent two hours tossing the audience into heights of glee. He played the piano, drums, keyboard, tambourine, and a few other things. True to form, he used his harmonizer and the vagaries of his voice to create sounds that you couldn’t keep up with. After every song, the venue burst into raucous applause, mostly because no one could believe that they watched a real person pull off what could only be called an act of God.
Anyone who follows Collier knows that he likes to use the audience in his live performances as one of his primary instruments. The Mumbai crowd was transformed into an accomplished choir, intoning and serenading to the tune of the 25-year-old on stage. Anyone present there would have told you that he exercised perfect control over hundreds of people – the kind of control he seems to command over every instrument he touches.
Often, Collier set the audience-choir as the backdrop to his own soundmaking. There are few experiences as fulfilling as his beatboxing while the audience sang those lines from Blackbird: “You are only waiting for this moment to arrive”.
Collier holds a particular appeal for musicians. He weaves sounds in ways that hint at not only a vast emotional spectrum, but also sheer mastery over musical theory. A lot of that was evident at NCPA, where heads nodded along as he explained his artistic vision across Djesse 1 (wide, expansive orchestral sounds), Djesse 2 (shrinking of the vast cosmos into personal intimacy) and Djesse 3 (so funky that you could almost call it dirty, according to the artist).
As this review claimed at the very beginning, there is nothing in the world that matches the ardour, wonder, and joy Jacob Collier brings to a stage. No review can convey precisely how good it felt to discover how the same sounds can swerve in innumerable different ways, and make your giggle and roar without a pause for hours on end.
One can see Collier hold much larger audience rapt with attention, and would do quite well with the curious kinds at the likes of an NH7 Weekender or a Ziro festival. One also saw that, with two sold out shows at one of Mumbai’s most prestigious venues, India simply could not get her fill of this soundsmith.