It started like a solo 100 metre dash. When Jacob Collier arrived on the Tata Theatre stage on Wednesday night, he ran about like a champion athlete, wearing a designer dhoti salwar and a matching tee. The crowd jumped from their seats and screamed in frenzied delight.
Over two hours later, they stood in stunned silence, as the London-based singer had given them one of their most memorable nights in a concert hall. In the interim, bouts of electric energy alternated with bursts of soulful melody. Happiness flowed like the sea waves nearby.
We had heard a lot about 25-year-old Collier’s extraordinary musical skills. But what we saw live was beyond one’s expectations, even after hearing rave reviews coming of the previous night’s performance. He not only sang across registers, but played guitars, grand piano, custom-made harmoniser, upright bass and percussion effortlessly and exquisitely, hopping from one instrument to another like an excited chameleon changing colours.
That was only the musical bit. Most important, Collier proved to be a master entertainer, charming everyone with his sharp humour and ability to involve the audience every single minute. Nobody would have wanted an interval, and luckily, it never came. And in the final moments, each one in the audience sang in an impromptu philharmonic choir, repeating a line from the Beatles hit ‘Blackbird’, as he kept improvising on vocals.
The band was fantastic. The ever-smiling MARO joined on vocal duets and an assortment of instruments, impressing with her versatility. Bassist Robin Mullarkey and drummer Christian Euman stitched together the rhythm section.
The crowd was filled with youngsters and musicians of different age groups. Organised by Mixtape in association with the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Wednesday’s show began with a performance by Indian all-vocal group Voctronica, which was superb on tracks like ‘Jazz’ and ‘Restart’. Using beat boxing and ‘a cappella’, they created sounds of different instruments with their voice, besides singing harmonies and worded lyrics.
For his part, Collier began by rendering ‘With The Love In My Heart’ and ‘Djesse’, both from the 2018 album Djesse Vol 1. Crisp pianos and smart percussion provided a perfect backdrop to his rich voice. The next song ‘Hideaway’, from his 2016 recording In My Room, had sections of the audience singing along with the main lines.
On ‘Feel’, MARO beautifully came in to replace Lianne La Havas, who sang it in the version used on Djesse Vol 2. Interestingly, Djesse is an ambitious four-volume 50-song project, of which Collier has released two parts. The set aims to capture “all musical styles on the planet”.
Collier’s sound is a mix of jazz, classical, gospel, folk, funk and electronic music, with intricate harmonies thrown in. He’s worked on most of the third volume of Djesse. “If Vol 1 is all about space and the follow-up is more acoustic, the third one will be extremely funky. I suggest you don’t listen to it at all as in reality, it isn’t funky,” he quipped.
Other highlights included ‘Close To You’, ‘Hajanga’, ‘Best Part’ and ‘It Don’t Matter’. For the encore, he donned a silk kurta and half jacket, sitting cross-legged and singing as though he was in a mehfil. Fans rushed to the space between the front seat and the stage, sat down, shot videos and sang along. When he got up and danced around, they did the same too.
The humour came in regular doses. After the first three songs, Collier introduced himself, “My name is Jacob. What’s your name?” Half the crowd answered in chorus. Later, he said, “Now let me introduce everyone on stage whose name is not Jacob.”
The crowd reacts to Collier
In another burst of magic, Collier had the five divisions of the venue sing five separate sounds, first separately, then together. If Mumbai has seen numerous entertainers, this lad is from a distinct league. It was total dhamaal, as the Bollywood gang would say.
The post-show reactions were phenomenal. “This guy isn’t human,” said one. A supremely talented guitarist and singer exclaimed, “People like him make me feel how small I am”. A third person declared, “The word ‘prodigy’ was invented for him.” Someone was overheard talking of multiple goosebumps.
Clearly, Collier left Mumbai with his magical stamp. Hope he returns soon. The Djesse Vol 3 promotional tour seems like a great idea.