Jacob Collier at The Blue Note: A Night to Remember
I couldn’t make up any part of the “Jacob Collier and Friends” 10:30 show at The Blue Note this past Monday, June 21. Everything about the night harkened back to what a young person like myself imagines the “good old days” of NYC clubs to be: charmingly gritty, a little awkward, unspeakably intimate. I used the restroom before the show and practically fell into the green room. Am I even allowed to be here? I wondered in awe of the proximity. I hit my mom’s arm in disbelief as I watched Chris Thile kneel on the stairs, grinning like a thief as Collier took to the stage. He was just there to relish the moment; he didn’t come up on stage for another 30 minutes. When Collier called Kimbra onto the stage and she stood from the seat in front of me, my jaw dropped yet again; people, big incredible people, were emerging from every crevice of the place. It all felt impossibly accessible.
The pandemic had an undeniable presence despite the place being packed like “before” times at full capacity. The venue announcer called for a moment of silence “for those who can’t be here” — an homage that, seated in the heart of Manhattan, hit the jugular. Every musician on the stage with a mic marveled at having a real audience in front of them and didn’t hesitate to acknowledge both the significance and the foreignness of the evening. Collier is an inherent improviser, but there were many moments of, “Wait, what now?” that made the whole thing feel all the more authentic. He missed several chords and brought the crowd to a roar every time he paused to correct something. Emily King, who performed her song “Georgia”, made fun of herself for not being able to find the AV plug for her guitar, joking, “Where’s the ring light?!” as she fumbled through the stage. And, in my favorite bit of the whole night, when Collier called Chris Thile back to the stage for the final song, it was obviously unexpected on Thile’s part because he lunged from behind the bar, a whiskey in each hand, to throw the drinks down on a table and sprint back up to the green room to fetch his mandolin.
While Collier was the headliner, the show was not about him. He was more of a producer; the show was simply about music and the celebration of performing. Of the 12 songs played, only four were his own (and only two were from his latest album, “Djesse Vol. 3”). He gave up the mic just as much as he used it. He seemed to relish not just the act of performing, but the divine joy of making music with friends. After the particularly raucous performance of “I Feel Fine” by The Beatles with Thile, Collier leapt over the piano to pull Thile into an embrace; it was clear he was overwhelmed by the moment. (And, to be fair, it was quite the moment — with this song, Thile and Collier became one with each other and the music, their voices and instruments blending in an of-the-moment symbiosis. It was genuinely unbelievable.)
And the show was as much for the musicians as it was for the audience. “Experience” is perhaps a more appropriate term than “concert:” a night of absurdly talented artists coming together to play their collective favorite songs and revel in having an audience again. It wasn’t unlike those nights when someone pulls out a guitar at a house party and a proper group forms to create that magical buzz of harmony and communal music — only it was some of the best musicians in the world doing it.
Those two hours left the audience marveling with an unshakeable sense of hope: not just at the possibility of being together again, but that music might return to the organic, gritty form we all love rather than the polished performances to which we have become accustomed. Perhaps, after all the transformation of the past year, genius doesn’t have to be at arms’ length. The miracle of possibility belongs to us all.
All media is my own.