It seems like the population doubles when the sun is out and as people filled central London after temperatures reached a sensational 29°c, London seemed almost unreal. This atmosphere carried on into the night and crept through the doors of renowned jazz club Ronnie Scotts, where Jordan Rakei added to the surreality of it all by transporting us into his own palpable dreamworld.
A line stretching down the length of the already crowded road in Soho, stood eagerly awaiting their entry to Rakei’s second midnight show. With people being turned away at the door and the mere amount of bodies, it was clear that this night was going to be something quite special. Simultaneously keeping us awake and grooving through the night, the intimate show last Thursday drew in a mix of people who had been following Jordan Rakei since his early ‘Franklin Room’ and ‘Groove Curse’ days.
As Jordan sung the first note of his spellbinding opener ‘Eye to Eye’ from his most recent project, ‘Wallflower’, everyone was instantly silenced and any non-believers or uncertain minds, were immediately converted in that split second. This opening was met with a rapturous applause – once everyone had snapped out of their daze – and after briefly introducing himself, Jordan immediately set the scene for this second song, ‘May’. The song he told us was a dedication to his grandmother who had died in the month of May and was based on a conversation he had had with his mother – who he pointed out in the crowd seemingly overwhelmed and in tears. Synchronising the hearts of everyone in the room with his storytelling, it allowed them to dance to the tune of this somber melody. Then contrasting ‘May’ with his upbeat hit ‘Goodbyes’, the realisation that we were in for a rollercoaster of emotions, only highlighted how Jordan had been wrestling with it all at the time of writing ‘Wallflower’.
Rakei then took us back to one of his oldest jams off the highly acclaimed EP ‘Groove Curse’. With ‘Add the Baseline’ everyone bobbed their heads back and forth unknowingly in agreement, as he repeated the line “everybody’s got the groove curse”. Continuing to bounce through hits from his previous projects such as; ‘Snitch’, ‘Streetlight’, ‘Shaclackclack the Puppet’ and ‘Selfish’ only seemed to further showcase how versatile a musician he is.
This was all before he introduced his first friend of the night, Elli Ingram, who danced in with her husky voice over Jordan’s sorrowful melody, carrying the song with passion and attitude. Jordan chimed in providing a warming harmony that reached depths I didn’t even know could be reached. As Elli exclaimed “I’ve been dreaming of a brighter day”, the audience looked on, almost swept away in the scene and her lulling lyrics. ‘Lucid’ followed on from the enchanting atmosphere that Elli left behind and carried on a tale of broken pasts and personal conflicts that seem to be hinted at in all Rakei’s more recent tracks. Then bringing on his friend and acclaimed rapper – Loyle Carner came on jokingly saying “It’s f*cking late man” – despite the hour he provided even more energy accompanied by a hard hitting beat, floating over it all with ease.
In ‘Selfish’, Jordan Rakie decided to add to his already groovy band by adding a trumpeter and saxophonist which lent itself to the reggae inspired undertones in the song. Ending the first half of this exciting night with his new unreleased song ‘Wildfire’, it made me wanna label his sound as groovily enchanting, but music this expressive can never be boxed in or labelled. Each person had to sit back, take it in and get their own individual experiences from it.
Starting off the second half of the night with ‘Wallflower’, the title track of Jordan Rakei’s latest album, the famed drummer Richard Spaven subbed in and provided an equally captivating performance which bled smoothly into the next song. Rakei then reintroduced his band by reminding us just why we’d fallen in love with them in the first half. Setting them off with ‘Midnight Mischief’, the first song on his album ‘Cloak’, only seemed more fitting now that we’d passed the 12:00am mark. With the momentum of the song making us eager for its dramatic finish, Jordan made the artistic choice instead to catch us all by surprise, and seamlessly fuse it with ‘A Tribe called Government’ from his EP, ‘Groove Curse’.
As the night grew on, Jordan found more ways to keep the audience engaged, this time by inviting his 4th guest, Rosie Lowe, for an old fashioned stripped back duet. Their voices, like a perfect Chardonnay matched with a well-aged Gruyere, paired perfectly together, and Rosie’s lower tone gave Jordan the chance to utilise his falsetto. It was time for Jordan’s 5th and final guest, Sam Crowe, who jokingly asked him to “move back” as they shared a piano stool together, both playing along to their final track together ‘Tawo’ from ‘Cloak’. Going back to back, clearly in their own zone, both musicians bobbed their heads to their own melodies, letting their fingers do the work. It was nothing short of a joy to witness, powered on by several “Whoo’s” from the crowd
‘Clues Blues’ followed, introduced by an ominous sound of synth like piano melodies, before diverging into a jazzy anthem – the song reached a point where Jordan himself had to shake his head as he looked at his band in absolute awe of what they had created. Leading into the last part of the night, Jordan illustrated just how stacked his music catalogue is by pulling out his hit single ‘Nerve’ from ‘Wallflower’, as everyone sang along to the lyric “how can I find a reason to love you, when I don’t love myself”, it struck me just how hard hitting it is.
Quickly reminding us that he’s happier than ever, with ‘The Light’ going straight into ‘Blame It On The Youth’, both tracks from ‘Cloak’ had everyone dancing and feeling rejuvenated at 2:30am just as the sax and trumpet made a welcome return.
Saying goodnight, Jordan Rakei closed off with ‘Talk To Me’, just as someone shouted out “can you play Frank Ocean?” to which he replied “maybe later”, suggesting it was probably past time for bed. This perfect ending gradually turned into a jam as he thanked his wonderful band and each guest by name, before ending the night just as he had started, silencing us all once again. As everyone flooded outside frantically booking Ubers, taking home more than just a memorable night.