Jacob Collier, Powerstation, September 2nd 2019: Concert Review

Caitlin Smith took in the Jacob Collier show at the Powerstation last night and found the 25 year old multi-instrumentalist prodigy seriously, effervescently, evangelically into music. Here’s her review.

I’m going to sum up this concert experience with one word: Joyous.

The 25 year old British prodigious multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier asked, “Are there any musicians here tonight?” the entire packed Powerstation audience put up their hands. When he asked “Are there any non-musicians?” I didn’t see a single hand raised (perhaps out of fear, sensing they were vastly outnumbered!) I think it’s safe to say then, that Collier is a musician’s musician.

His mother is a music educator, arranger and musician, and similar to Mozart, the young Jacob would have been weaned on music from the get go. It shows.

I’ve watched Collier explain harmony to a five-year-old, then discuss its deeper complexities with Herbie Hancock. This guy is seriously, effervescently, evangelically into music. In particular, harmony: negative harmony, jazz harmony and he’s had the drive and passion to harness the very latest recording and AV technologies to create something beautifully charged, experimental, accessible and… yes, joyous.

His enthusiasm and energy are a seemingly limitless and inexhaustible force. He’d need to be propelled by something stronger than RedBull to have made his mark on the YouTube-driven musical map as he has: endless arrangements of Stevie Wonder choons, jazz standards and (my personal favourites) his hauntingly beautiful originals.

Just recently, he wrote and recorded 50 songs (four albums) in one year! Djesse Volumes 1 to 4. Vol 1 is orchestral, Vol 2 more intimate and folky, Vol 3 “more funky than you can handle” and yet to be released and Vol 4, something he’s keeping under wraps.

He also has some very hard-hitting musical champions, signed by Quincy Jones to his own record label. He’s in with the in-crowd and I believe we’re lucky to have had him come down this far. So many new musicians now make the effort to venture this far south on the planet.

Tonight, Collier bounced around the stage from upright bass, to piano, to Talk-bow, to keys, drums/percussion, electric bass, his specially developed ‘harmoniser’, melodica and guitar like pinball in a machine or an excitable puppy… many times within the one song! All the while, he sang. And, oh my Goddess, can he what? His vocal range is Olympian in scale, dexterous and agile as a Thai kick-boxer. The super bass notes seemed almost freakishly low and the boys around where I was standing were smiling and shaking their heads in respect and wonder.

My personal vocal preferences tend towards soul, ‘cornbread,’ roughness and imperfection. Collier, in contrast and by necessity is pure, precise and pitch and rhythmically perfect. This is the ONLY way one can layer and arrange the multitude of looped a cappella harmonies he does. During the encore of ‘Blackbird’, I really heard the influence of Imogen Heap in his breathing and vocal delivery (not to mention the use of harmonies). He does a cover of ‘Hide and Seek’ which really doesn’t venture too far from Heap’s original.

I was so happy to be upstairs in the all-ages section. It’s wonderful, and rare, to have all-ages gigs. And if I were a parent and my child played any sort of musical instrument, I’d want them to see the impossible made possible as it was by Collier and band.

On that note, though he was on stage with three other musicians, they seemed to meld into the shadows, even though they are virtuosi in their own right.

These were the same personnel who played on his infamous NPR Tiny Desk Concert, except for the omission of Becca Stevens. The musical line-up were: Portugese multi-instrumentalist MARO (who had her moment to shine singing solo and playing guitar on Mariana), bassist Robin Mullarkey and drummer Christian Euman. All seemed delighted to be part of the crazy that is Collier.

Performance-wise, there was a preponderance of audience anticipation… sorry, ‘participation’. I know some people to be intolerant, if not allergic to this phenomenon. This wouldn’t have been your night. Like the Bobby McFerrin gigs I’ve been to, the audience is frequently used as choir and percussion ensemble.

Wild gesticulation, calling and conducting had us responding, singing, clapping and being controlled as if we were his very own synthesizer. I felt a little like I was on a Richard Simmons aerobics video from the early 80s….! One also had the impression that there were a lot of barbershop appreciators present … just a hunch…

Hideaway’ was the highlight for me. I was just blissing out on the sonic-beauty of the song….. sublime! And, though ‘Feel’ was played, I was disappointed that they didn’t play ‘Make Me Cry’ (also from Djesse Vol. 2).‘Close to You’ was proof that you really can breathe new life into some tired old tunes (…. Sorry Burt). ‘In My Room’ was performed with all four musicians sitting at the front of the stage around one mic with glorious harmonies, as per. We dutifully sat down on the floor as instructed.

He brought his own crew: sound guy; a Spaniard, lighting tech; an Italian and the roadie/technician who’s Virgoan birthday was last night!

Jacob Collier seemed genuinely happy to be in NZ (for the first time) and I do hope he will return to show us more of what he can do so well: be an ambassador for voice and music.

What… a … Joy!

~Caitlin Smith

Click any image to view a gallery of photos from Veronica McLaughlin Photography.


  1. With the Love in My Heart
  2. Djesse
  3. Hideaway
  4. Don’t you Know
  5. Ocean Wide, Canyon Deep
  6. Close to You
  7. Mariana
  8. Hajanga
  9. JC (piano and voice)
  10. Fascinating Rhythm
  11. All Night Long


  1. In My Room
  2. Blackbird
  3. You’ve Got a Friend