Last night, I got a chance to see Jordan Rakei
perform a soulful, jazzy set at Mercury Lounge. I arrived just as the opening act, James Tillman
, was beginning. Left without a backing band because of some traveling issues, James Tillman opened the show with an incredibly intimate solo set. With nothing but an electric guitar and his smooth-as-silk voice, Tillman was able to captivate the audience.
Once James was finished, Jordan Rakei and his band began to set up, sound checking the amplified drum set, bass, guitar, and a couple keyboards. When they were ready, they launched into their first song without much announcement - but of course, they didn't need any announcement. The audience was immediately drawn into their tight rhythms and effortlessly flowing solos. Rakei weaved between singing his introspective lyrics and improvisational licks.
One of the things Rakei mentioned in his between-song banter was that this was his first time performing in America. The Sunday night show at Mercury Lounge was actually his fourth and final sold out New York show that weekend, and when Rakei asked audience members to raise their hands if they had seen any of his other shows that weekend, almost no one raised their hand. For Jordan, this meant that for his first time performing four shows in New York, he got to perform for four completely different crowds - for Jordan, seeing no one raising their hand was incredibly exciting.
The fact that this was Jordan's first time performing in America gave rise to some fun banter about cultural differences. Rakei told one anecdote about wearing a Yankees hat to a show and getting some hate from Mets fans in the crowd. At one point an audience member chimed in with an "it's lit," which launched a bit of discussion about slang - "it's lit" is apparently a very American thing to say. Some American slang doesn't really appeal to Jordan, though - "I fucks wit' it" tends to make him cringe.
My favorite moment from last night's show was Jordan Rakei's performance of "Sorceress," the first single from his upcoming album Wallflower
, which is coming out this Friday. He prefaced the song with an explanation of the song's meaning, saying that "the sorceress" is a personification of the darkness and negativity that can take over one's whole being. The most beautiful moment came as the song began to wind down to its end; fans who had been singing along softly throughout the performance could be heard more starkly as the band slowly dropped out and Rakei sang those repeated words, "you are the sorceress." The audience was not only singing along, but harmonizing. While I've heard crowds sing along with their favorite artists before, this moment was unlike any other I've experienced - it was soft and beautiful, spontaneous and special.