Jacob Collier – Powerstation: December 13, 2022

A stage full of top tier jazz musicians, each outstanding in their own right, hold, lift and illuminate multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier while he literally jumps from one instrument to the other across the Powerstation stage on Tuesday night.

Before the music has even started, Jacob is conducting the crowd into a choir. Smiles light up peoples faces as the pure joy melts off the stage and into the audience. 

Without a moment’s hesitation, the band starts with a bang into a mashup of his song With The Love in My Heart and Lionel Richie’s All Night Long. Jacob manages to switch from piano to percussion, to synth all in the matter of about 30 seconds. 

The first three songs With The Love In My Heart, Count The People and Feel flow from one into another, and the audience is captivated by the perfect chaos occurring onstage. 

Is this man a Wizard? The crowd is internally asking themselves. Everyone knows they are signing up to sing their hearts out in harmony when they purchase a ticket to a Jacob Collier concert, but it’s still hard to believe how easily he controls hundreds of voices with the flick of a wrist.

After a small hello to Auckland, the last stop of his 2022 world tour, he introduces his next song Hideaway. This song is one of his more well-known tunes, perhaps because it is slightly more digestible musically. It begins with goosebump-inducing acoustic guitar melodies that sound like harps, and then sits into a soft comforting groove supported by sub bass and 808 samples.

The harmonies are arranged in a crazy jazz choral style that overlap each other and the three acoustic guitar parts. The crowd joins in singing “down falling down” in the bridge section in three-piece harmony. Bryn Bliska busts out an incredibly melodic wacky jazz solo on the keyboard and It’s pretty close to pure magic. 

Don’t You Know, an absolute classic from back when Jacob would solo tour and build all the musical layers of a band by himself on stage, starts with him doing exactly that. The band seamlessly picks up the track when it moves into a new section no matter how crazy the change is. 

The lights dip to black and spotlights fall on the drummer and Jacob as they smash out a  double drum solo. It is absolute perfect madness.

Complicated claps along from the crowd make sure that Jacob can leave his hybrid percussion/drum kit and jump on the baby grand piano dominantly in the middle of the stage. The groove turns into a nearly 10 minute jam by Jacob and the rhythm section.

Taking the energy down to peaceful place for a moment he turns to the audience and asks

“Next I’d like to play a short song on guitar in F#major, is that alright?”

The Sun is in Your Eyes is an absolutely stunning song full of fantastic guitar licks and the most satisfying and warming vocal melody. Jacob teases the crowd with a lingering non diatonic minor chord and strolls along the stage, keeping the audience in unease outside of the homekey, almost resolving it as he walks back to the mic, only to tease a little longer before finally bringing it home. 

The crowd is dead silent when he builds a soundtrack on the next synth based song. It’s just him and his keyboard in the spotlight and his voice gets fed back into his synthesiser to build a fantastic soundscape. It is a pure expression of exploration through sound.

It is beautiful how he holds everyone in the palm of his hand. Unlike most concerts, very few people have their phones out and drinks in their hands. People are purely there to listen and to be involved. It feels real and like a coming together of music lovers which creates a special energy among the audience. 

The band walks back onto the stage now only lit by the 12 standing lamps spread along the stage.

It feels like waking up to a new morning as they start to play Never Going To Be Alone, a track Jacob originally co-wrote with Lizzy Mcalpine. The female vocalist/percussionist takes over Lizzy’s part in this song and her voice is like sweet silk. Her vocal runs are insane and her voice melds seamlessly with Jacobs.

A hat gets launched onto the stage from the crowd, which Jacob casually places on his head for the duration of the next song Time Alone With You.

He starts playing the intro and then all of a sudden freezes in the middle, really drawing out the anticipation of what is to come next. 

Somebody yells from the crowd “Don’t be a dick!!! Give it to us!”

He then counts “2345” super fast and launches into the rest of the song. 

There seems to be a natural middle section after All I Need where the band leaves the stage and Jacob speaks to the audience for a while.

He talks about how he was sitting in a chair in London In lockdown singing All I Need, pointing to a ceiling and how he was imagining that one day that will be Auckland. He shares how he feels there is no replacement for the feeling of being on stage.

“At every show I wanted to improvise a different song on the piano. Since it’s December and since you are Auckland. There is a tune I really adore that I have never sat at a piano and played before. This is one of my favourite parts of the show because I don’t know what’s going to happen and neither do you.”

The song he plays is The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire), conducting harmonies on the last oooh, the audience is the choir once again. 

It is unlike any other experience. An entire audience singing in beautiful harmonies creates this magical feeling of unison and admiration for this artist that controls us like consensual puppets, turning everyday folk into a choir of angels.

Because it is the last stop of the tour, Jacob takes a solid moment to thank his band.

“I am a little biased in this regard but I am of the belief that this is the best band in the whole world.” he laughs. 

“Music is not about the notes and chords and rhythms but it is about the heart and having an open heart and letting the world in and letting it out again. Music is about being human. I have learnt so much from these guys about how important it is to be open. And as well as being awesome musicians they’re also stellar humans.

Jacob eloquently describes each player perfectly. 

Robin Mullarkey on bass who is the “purveyor of finest low notes in all the land.” 

Christian Euman on drums who is “Surrounded by multiple versions of circular banging and bashing devices and whos “percussive tendencies know no bounds.”

Bryn Bliska on keys who “sings the gnarliest alto lines, is the ultimate musical badass and co author of the show sonically.”

Emily Alberts on electric guitar, the “Ultimate rockstar of this band, whos vocals are the closest thing I can think of to manuka honey.”

Alita Moses on vocals and percussion who “needs to words and is so world class it’s almost crazy.”

He also thanks the mix engineer, monitor engineer, stage manager, production manager, drum tech and light tech, something most artists don’t really do in their shows these days.

Sleeping On My Dreams was his “last song”. A funky party tune to wrap up the incredible and unforgettable evening.

Of course there is an encore. However this one lasted much longer than one song. 

He starts off with a cover of Somebody To Love by Queen, once again conducting the audience into a choir and the song lasts about 10 minutes.

He then moves to a cover of Silent Night as everyone sings in eight part harmony. The audience has been turned into a beat machine and the rhythm carries Silent Night into a wacky version of Blackbird by The Beatles. 

The evening finishes on a high as everyone is joyfully singing their hearts out alongside Jacob Collier. 

It is impossible to forget moments like these, and Jacob has really nailed how to not only put on a good show, but how to make people feel like they are part of something larger than themselves. 

By Jemilah Ross-Hayes and Koen Aldershof

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