Singapore International Festival of Arts

Ill, but still so entertaining

Jacob Collier's display of music-geek theatrics, enhanced by interactive and kaleidoscopic videos on the large screen backdrop, was highly entertaining.
Jacob Collier's display of music-geek theatrics, enhanced by interactive and kaleidoscopic videos on the large screen backdrop, was highly entertaining.PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS

YouTube star Jacob Collier jazzed up his debut show here with impressive multi-tracking skills and arrangements despite being under the weather

REVIEW / CONCERT

JACOB COLLIER

Victoria Theatre/Last Friday


There was word that British one-man band and YouTube jazz star Jacob Collier was sick on the day of his concert, his debut show in Singapore.

If the Grammy-winning singer and multi-instrumentalist was feeling under the weather, there was certainly no sign of it during his 90-minute gig, the first of his two-night engagement here as part of this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts.

The lanky 23-year-old hit the ground running the moment he kicked off the show, making a mad dash around the stage to quickly acknowledge his audience before humming the first notes of his opening song, his famously hopped-up version of Stevie Wonder's Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing.

If the viral YouTube clip of him single-handedly multi-tracking all the instruments in the song was impressive, his live rendition was even more so. Collier, dressed in his trademark oversized T-shirt and multi-hued harem pants, was a frenzied bundle of energy.

Deftly using looping machines as well as his lightning-quick coordination, he built up layer upon layer of sound by taking turns on instruments that included two keyboards, a piano, a drum set, a double bass and an electric bass. At times, he would play two instruments at once, tapping the electric bass fretboard with his left hand while his right was busy on the keyboard.

Whether on covers such as George Gershwin's Fascinating Rhythm and Burt Bacharach's (They Long To Be) Close To You or originals from his sole album In My Room (2016), he displayed his canny knack for seamlessly merging styles ranging from folk and funk to a cappella and soul.

Not one to play the songs straight, he would jazz them up with odd-time rhythms and complex arrangements. His singing voice was in top form, effortlessly switching between deep baritone and high falsettos, often within the same singing line, with seeming ease.

Juggling the multiple instruments on stage was not enough either.

On several songs, such as The Beatles' Blackbird and original tune Saviour, he brought audience participation to another level by deftly conducting their singing as if they were but one of the many musical instruments he has mastered.

If there was a flaw in the set, it was the little moments when his showboating seemed a little much.

This was especially evident during his drumming on Down The Line, where his act of continuously throwing away his drum sticks and picking up new ones seemed gimmicky.

For the most part though, his display of music-geek theatrics, enhanced by interactive and kaleidoscopic videos on the large screen backdrop, was highly entertaining.

He is the musician's musician, if you will, and it was no surprise to see the high turnout of home-grown singers and musicians at his show, including Joanna Dong and Inch Chua.

If this was Collier putting on a show under the weather, one wonders what a gig by him in the pink of health would be like.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2018, with the headline 'Ill, but still so entertaining'. Print Edition | Subscribe