Concert recap: Jacob Collier's music is best experienced live

Jeeves de Veyra

Posted at Nov 26 2022 02:44 PM | Updated as of Nov 27 2022 12:14 PM

Jacob Collier with his guitar. Jeeves de Veyra
Jacob Collier with his guitar. Jeeves de Veyra

MANILA -- British musical wunderkind Jacob Collier dazzled fans during the Manila leg of his "DJESSE" world tour at Filinvest Tent in Alabang,

Collier, who was recently awarded the YouTube Gold Play Button celebrating his millionth subscriber, became popular because of his intricate and unusual harmonizations streamed from the basement in of his family’s London flat. He is a multiple Grammy winner for his arrangements, most notably his takes on Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" and The Flintstones theme. Besides his music, his video deep-dives into music theory are fascinating for those who know, or want to know more, about the nuances of music.

Collier's music is pretty easy to appreciate and easy on the ears. Think of a millennial take on the musicality and blending of The Manhattan Transfer, combined with transitions into all sorts of musical genres such as blues, R&B, and world music and you've got a rough description of what Collier has in his repertoire. The appeal spans generations that the audience that night was a nice mix of young and not-so-young fans.

The moment the lanky musician bounds on stage, the audience immediately starts humming knowing what to expect from the rest of evening.

Collier starts off with a bang with the fast tempo “With the Love in My Heart” and “Count the People.” Part of the fun is watching Collier move from the keyboards to the drums to the guitar and back again. In these tracks, he does a fast rap that I thought was like old school jazz scatting. He slows down with “Feel,” letting vocalist Emily Elbert take the lead.

Jacob Collier with his vocal harmonizer. Jeeves de Veyra
Jacob Collier with his vocal harmonizer. Jeeves de Veyra

The musician corrected himself when he said this was his first time in the Philippines. This was Collier’s first time to perform in Manila, but he did play a memorable set during the 2016 Malasimbo Music Festival in Mindoro.

“Hideaway” is a personal favorite where the starts out with a lullaby-like strumming of a guitar and Collier’s own controlled bass-y vocals. The musician then mixes in all sorts of elements for the song to reach a crescendo only to end as it gently began.

Drum and bass track “Don’t You Know” upped the tempo getting Collier manically running around the stage again playing different instruments. Then, he slowed down the set asking the audience if he could play a song on his guitar.

It is when Collier is all alone on the stage with just his voice and guitar where his music really shines. The soulful “The Sun Is in Your Eyes” was a testament to just that.

From the guitar, Collier went into a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” behind his one-of-a-kind vocal harmonizer made by collaborator Ben Bloomberg of the MIT Media Lab, which allowed him to mix and add effects on-the-fly giving a haunting quality to this rendition. Even with all the technical wizardry, Collier still lets the emotion, his vocal prowess, and his range come through with the audience enraptured when he hits the high points and the high notes of the song.

After all that raw emotion, I thought the audience (and perhaps Collier) needed some moments to breathe. The chill “In Too Deep” did just that.

Jacob Collier rouses up the crowd. Jeeves de Veyra
Jacob Collier rouses up the crowd. Jeeves de Veyra

Collier then asked if he could play a funky song. This was a set up to his Daniel Caesar collaboration “Time Along with You” where he recreated a scene from the music video sitting on a bench at the back of the stage and then putting on his trademark bear hat.

He then launched into catchy “All I Need,” a jazzy tune that Collier composed with sounds sampled from all over his house during the pandemic lockdowns.

As Collier introduced his next song saying that he made it a point to perform one song on the piano and he was saving one particular song for Manila, the crowd knew that this was going to be something special.

He then launched into an extended piano solo letting the suspense build as to what song he was going to play. As Collier started with the first three words of Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part,” the crowd just lost it, breaking into the Filipino tradition of turning any concert into a karaoke session, accompanying Collier's playful singing and tinkling of the piano keys.

Then came the most awaited part of any Jacob Collier concert, him showing off his mastery over the most difficult and temperamental instrument of all – the audience.

From a singer to an instrumentalist, Collier became a conductor with the crowd as his orchestra. This being the Philippines, Collier was obviously giddy producing some unbelievable harmonies with just a wave or two of his hands. Being a part of that crowd was like being bathed in choir music that just seemed to rise up into the heavens.

Besides Collier’s voice and his music geekery, it was his humanity that left a deep impression that night. He talked about being locked up at home, making music during the pandemic and how he felt music was the universal language that would make everything all right.

It is not unusual for artists to introduce their band, but giving heartfelt props to the entire team who work behind the scenes is something else.

Jacob Collier with Filipina sound engineer Regina Avelion. Jeeves de Veyra
Jacob Collier with Filipina sound engineer Regina Averion. Jeeves de Veyra

Perhaps the most aww-some moment of the concert was when Collier gave a super special shout out to Filipina sound engineer Regina Averion, who was invited to be part of the world tour because of her work on Collier's next album, "DJESSE Volume 4."

I'd bet it was a homecoming like no other for the Filipina who hasn't been home in 10 years. The crowd started chanting “RE-GI-NA!” when the huge screens showed Averion with her shirt emblazoned with the Philippine flag as Collier invited her to center stage.

Collier then launched into the last song the danceable “Sleeping with My Dreams” mixed in with a small segment of “In My Room” from his first ever album.

The lights go out, and as expected, Collier runs out for an encore launching into a cover of Queen’s “Somebody To Love”. The concert then ends with Collier conducting the audience into the concluding group harmonics session with the crowd singing all the way to the end even after house lights came on. Collier calling out Averion to share the final bows was a nice touch.

In the end, this was not just a concert. This was an experience! Listening to music from the usual concert speakers is nothing compared to drowning in the music of Collier leading the Filipino crowd in communal humming. Seeing this on Collier’s YouTube and Instagram Reels is one thing, but getting to experience it live is on another level altogether.