Live Review: Jordan Rakei @ SWX

George Smith

On a cold, slightly drizzly Tuesday evening in Bristol, Jordan Rakei provided an intimate evening of soul and jazz in celebration of his third album Origin, through the warmth of ethereal harmonies and poetic lyrics.

 

Arlo Parks was the perfect introduction to Jordan, and it’s clear why she was chosen to support, as she created and sustained a relaxed, dreamy ambiance. Arlo sang with authenticity, emphasising lyrical meaning - I am a big fan of artists encapsulating the emotion and mood of a song, rather than singing lyrics blindly and with a focus on the technicality of performance. Arlo reminded us halfway through her performance that she was only 19 and that this was her first tour; difficult to believe given she is already performing with such maturity and touring internationally at the same age as myself. Arlo ended her performance with one of her latest singles ‘Super Sad Generation’, a harrowing, melancholy song. It talks about the struggling youth in today’s society, their tendencies for abusing substances as an escape, and their obsessions with appearance. It is a simple song but the message it conveys is moving and worrying, delivered by Arlo with a sense of genuine sadness. This was the final song before Jordan came onstage, a fitting choice considering the nature of Jordan’s album Origin, which is based on a young, lonely man in a dystopian, technology-ridden society who is trying to make the best of it all.

 

Jordan started with ‘Mad World’, the first track on Origin. My friend with me at the gig can verify that as soon as I heard his angelic voice I couldn’t help but let out a sigh of satisfaction. Jordan started solo with a looper to loop his voice and his clapping, just as is heard on the start of the ‘Mad World’. His last album, Wallflower, was produced with a focus on its musicality in the studio, ignoring the constraints of live performance. Origin, though seems to hold a more listener-oriented production, in its reproducibility and catchiness. Jordan’s conscious decision to begin by replicating the track in front of our eyes signals this difference from the outset. The transitions between the first few tracks were seamless, sustaining a

smooth, slightly transient mood - the crowd either beamed with infatuation for Jordan or stood close-eyed and engrossed in the music. The jazzy, story-setting ‘Mad World’ was woven into his more poetic and personal previous works from Wallflower and Cloak. Though Origin is notably happier, and easier to digest with its influences from dance music, the gig still captured his musicality and lyrical depth as he flicked between content.

Jordan’s performance ranged from fun tracks like ‘Mind’s Eye’ to the heart-wrenching performance of ‘May’, a track about loss, which I have a personal attachment to and so it was emotional to hear played live. This made for a very complete evening. The night was filled with laughter, emotion, jazz, soul and dance. Jordan’s performance was distinctly more professional, compared to the Wallflower tour; his artistic development has been strong along with the improved quality of his work. The night crescendoed, ending on a high both in terms of energy and sound. Jordan’s promised two more albums within the next three years, so he doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Photo courtesy of Philip Hiscocks.

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