Jacob Collier – too many toys in his pram

Jacob Collier and Friends, Royal Albert Hall

It goes without saying that 24-year-old Jacob Collier is a phenomenon. There’s no instrument he can’t play, and he sometimes plays several at once. He made his name through YouTube multi-track arrangements of songs by Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, and others, for which he recorded all the voices. He’s a keyboard wizard with a preternatural ability to modulate, Houdini-like, through the most improbable harmonic sequences. He’s in demand as a collaborator by leading lights in every branch of showbiz, and he’s very big in Japan.

Jacob Collier accompanied by conductor Jules Buckley and his Metropole Orkest (c) Mark AllanJacob Collier with conductor Jules Buckley and his Metropole Orkest ©Mark Allan

For Prom 7 he was joined by the folk-singers Sam Amidon and Becca Stevens, the Gospel sextet Take 6, the Moroccan gnawa singer Hamid El Kasri plus his backing group, and the seventy-piece big-band Metropole Orkest under Jules Buckley’s direction.

He ran on stage like a gawky teenager (though offstage he’s a suave young gent) with arms and legs flailing in all directions, and rushed through the orchestra banging, plucking, and playing everything within reach; then he bawled into his voice-synthesiser like a dog howling at the moon. Orchestral soup prevented his brief snatches of pianism being audible, or anything resembling a song, though the programme indicated that two had been sung before Sam Amidon came on in a sudden hush to sing the third.

And so it went on, with Buckley and his band drowning anything which threatened to bring the noise down to a human level: a snatch of Gospel, a sweet little duet between Collier’s guitar and Stevens’s ukulele, or anything from the Moroccan singer and his guimbri – all were lost in the din. And as the evening progressed, Collier’s self-congratulation intensified. ‘Now I’m birthing a new song of mine’, he announced to the assembled multitude before delivering a syrupy little number, ‘it’s tremendous to have you guys in my life.’ To which, for some reason, the multitude responded ecstatically.

Well, a lot of it did – but definitely not all. A self-regarding schmaltz-fest of this industrial strength was clearly more than some people in the hall could bear. Collier can do a nifty one-man act, but here the boy had far, far too many toys in his pram.



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