Jamie Lidell, Koko, London
Monday 05 May 2008
Jamie Lidell is used to being a soloist, by nature as well as by name. His performances once consisted simply of himself and his unique, symbiotic sound-desk set-up, which allowed him to layer his beat-boxing and remarkable soul vocal into complete tracks without the interference of anything so old-fashioned as a band.
But the sound of his new album, Jim – a mash-up of Motown and his own, more modern sensibilities – invites the participation of other players, so he's assembled a group of accomplished jazz musos from among his Berlin-based gang, and morphed himself from an avant-garde solo act into an assured frontman.
Among his accompanists is Andre Vida, a saxophonist who's played with freejazz pioneer Anthony Braxton, and Mocky, who wrote and produced Jim alongside Lidell, and contributes to the live show with plenty of shaking and banging of various bits of percussion.
At first Lidell seems bewildered by the crowd's attention, trotting humbly onstage in a fetching white suit. But when he starts to sing the album opener "Another Day", any trace of bashfulness dissipates. In a night of wondrous variety, he channels black vocalists from Ray Charles to Prince via Marvin Gaye. He dances like a kid who's drunk too much orange squash. It's thoroughly infectious.
The frantic "Out of my System" breaks down into a spot of invigorating, improvised looping. The rest of the band, left to their own devices as Lidell bonds with his laptop, dance joyfully to his tribal beats and breathy Michael Jackson vocals.
The dance break recalls Lidell's early work as one half of the electronica duo Super Collider, and he's obviously keen to show off the breadth of his talents, but it's his soul stylings that'll give him the best chance of chart success, and the band segue skilfully back into the mix for the jerky "A Little Bit More", followed by two gems from Jim, the brassy shoe-shuffler "Feel Good" and ballad "All I Wanna Do".
The concluding number is a souped-up version of Lidell's best known single "Multiply", from the album of the same name. That record was meant to be Lidell's commercial crossover, but somehow it ended up tucked away in the dance section of most music stores. Jim is a more straightforward proposition, and deserves to propel this adventurous artist into the mainstream.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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