|Jordan Rakei at EartH
iPhone snap by Leah Williams
(EartH, Hackney, 15 May 2019. Review by Leah Williams)
Jordan Rakei has had an outstanding few years, releasing new music and gaining fans in record time since he arrived in the UK from Australia. Tickets for his shows have become notoriously hard to get your hands on and last night’s gig sold out in under an hour.
It was a pre-emptive glimpse at his new album Origin, which is released on Ninja Tunes on 14 June, following which he embarks on his biggest UK and EU tour to date, including a stop at the Roundhouse on 18 October.
From the opening moments of the show, it was clear he wouldn’t disappoint. There was quite the set-up on stage, but he arrived alone and began with a simple atmospheric background cocooning his smooth vocals. Building this up slowly with well-practised live looping, it was an excellent introduction to the fuller sound as the band came in.
While these low-tempo, solo moments were sadly rare for the rest of the night, each one did further testify to how much of his sound – putting electronics and infectious rhythms aside – simply comes down to the incredible quality of his distinctive voice. It’s a voice with honeyed personality, a voice that draws you in and makes you hang on every word, and it sounds every bit as amazing live as on his recordings.
The set list was cleverly constructed to mix new tracks with old favourites. As often happens at new album launches, the artist is looking to introduce their new material – and the audience are really just desperate to hear the old stuff they so know and love. So when he invited everyone to sing along to Say Something, one of the first releases from the new album, it was an inspired way to get the audience engaged – and it opened the floodgates. He couldn’t have stopped everyone joining in after that had he tried.
Partly, this is down to the fact that his lyrics really seem to speak to people, with their exploration of human existence and connection in this rapidly changing world. And as the entire audience passionately sang along to “Doesn’t it seem like a wildfire / See that burning bridge right through the mirror / Doesn’t it make you realise / Only you can keep this flame alive” it was clear his philosophising has captured the minds and ears of a generation. Perhaps another reason he’s so popular is that his style so effortlessly draws inspiration and sound from such an eclectic mix of music. Jazz, reggae, funk, pop, electronica… it’s hard not to hear a bit of everything in there and to identify musically with some aspect.
The jazz and funk elements come through strongly from the restless pulsing beats of the rhythm section and props needs to be given to drummer Jim Macrae for the relentless strength of his groove.
Similarly, Rakei’s music slides easily between these infectious rhythms to ethereal ambience and back again with no apology. Proving himself master of the false ending, there was many a song that wound down to a whisper only to draw you back in to a climactic finish or to transition through to another song, never letting the intensity of the musical experience wither. A highlight of the night was when he moved seamlessly between three favourites, Tawo, Blame It on the Youth, and Add the Bassline to bring the gig towards its close.
A show that lives up to the artist hype, get ready to hit “buy” on those tour tickets – there’s no doubt they’ll be sold out before you’ve had a chance to blink.
Leah Williams is a freelance journalist and editor working across many different sectors and has been a regular reviewer and feature writer for LJN since 2016.