Jordan Rakei – The Powerstation: January 20, 2023

Jordan Rakei came home to an open-armed audience at The Powerstation.

Only a handful of people are holding on to the barricade when the opening act enters the stage. Len Blake, a Dunedin-born, Wellington-based Neo-Soul artist, has recently made the big move to London and her music reflects the sought-after London Jazz sound. She happily bounces onto the instrument-laden podium, following the session musicians that make up her 5-piece band, there’s hardly enough room for them all.

Len Blake

Len Blake and her band kick right into the first two songs of her set, an array of low-energy Len Blakejazz-fusion tunes laden with laid-back grooves and very mellow changes. The venue technicians take a while to catch up with the band and it is not until the third song of their set that the sound becomes balanced; although, they are not helped by Len who takes the microphone off the stand and unfortunately covers the mic with her hand for a few of the songs, creating a muffled tone and a lot of feedback.

Halfway through her set Len Blake introduces the band, although it’s still impossible to catch most of what is said. Len is interactive with the crowd in everything she does, drawing in more and more people to sway along on the dancefloor, however, her four accompanying session musicians, while playing impressive parts and building up a great music bed, all seem to be in their own world and it’s visibly hard for Len to land some interaction with them.

“I was lucky enough to write this next song with the man himself [Jordan Rakei], it’s called Lost in Comfort

Rakei, who moved to London almost ten years ago, must have been quite welcoming to Blake. It’s a special kind of comfort to find kiwis on the other side of the world, let alone when they’re accomplished musicians within a similar genre.

Jordan Rakei

Jordan Rakei follows his band of incredibly skilled touring musicians onto the stage and the crowd roars with excitement. The dimly lit room has slowly filled up and it feels like a sold-out night at The Powerstation.

Jordan kicks off his set with the title track of his latest album What We Call Life but this is by no means an album tour. Throughout the set, Jordan keeps introducing songs by saying “I’m gonna bring us back to 2017” and “I’ve got about 100 songs that I’ve released in the last 10 years so it’s hard to pick what to play. it’s my 10-year anniversary.” The crowd audibly assures him that they are happy to celebrate his anniversary together.

The band has a controlled laid back feel to almost every song. From the first song, through to the last there’s a playful balance between the drummer, bassist, and percussionist, laying some seriously tasteful foundations to the tunes. Meanwhile, the left-handed lead guitarist and Jordan Rakei harmonise, both vocally and instrumentally, crafting an atmospheric soundscape. Throughout the first few songs, Rakei’s delicate voice rings out clear, full of emotion, and ever so slightly wavering over the pondering tunes the audience loves so dearly.

Jordan stands among an array of keyboards and synthesizers, some of which are patched through effect pedals. The scene looks like a Hollywood’s depiction of an alien spaceship’s cockpit. Rakei pilots his devices and takes us on quite a journey as a he messes around with knobs on the effect pedals while simultaneously playing intricate parts on his keyboards.

Some of Rakei’s biggest songs, Family, Say Something, and Boarderline sound almost exactly like the recordings, which any Jordan Rakei fans will know, are always full of earcandy. The whole band is very well rehearsed and easily establishes a relaxed energy on stage while maintaining a strong emotional presence in the music. It leaves a lot of room for Jordan to banter with the bandmembers and the audience even though he explains he’s “bad at talking”.

Jordan swaps to his guitar to play Alright and Bruises showing a lot of his kiwi reggae influence. When Rakei swaps back to his motherboard of keys things start to get increasingly funky.

The rhythm section has already been groovy in almost all of the previous tunes but now the night takes a turn. Over the next half of the set the drummer rides on a ‘four-on-the-floor’ beat, also known as the typical disco sound, which is only made increasingly funky by the phenomenal bass lines. The lead guitarist kicks in his Wah pedal from time to time and the percussionists hands shoot across the congas, cowbells, chimes and more.

Jordan’s vocals still sit right on top of everything, comfortably, and his hands now lead the band in complex riffs and jazzy chord progressions. Cleverly pushing and pulling in Eye to Eye, leaving almost everyone confused, the band flows the outro of the song into Send my Love where Rakei ends up playing two keyboards simultaneously while singing emotionally with his eyes nearly closed.

The entire audience is moving, and just as everyone has really loosened up Jordan Rakei thanks the room by saying: “That’s us, thanks Auckland.” But of course, the band walks back on stage to cheers and applause after a few minutes of waiting behind the curtains to play one more song. Jordan Rakei and his incredible band sound out the night with Mind’s Eye, one of his best tunes.

Koen Aldershof and Jemilah Ross-Hayes

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Tara Ranchhod:

Jordan Rakei:

Len Blake: