Jordan Rakei @ The Woolly Mammoth

Traversing the realms of soul, jazz, funk, and hip-hop.

Up first on Saturday night at The Woolly Mammoth was Street Rat, playing a solo set of electric guitar and vox. He played all manner of snazzy, jazzy chords, exhibiting exceptional musicianship. Pulling off an unaccompanied performance it is no mean feat, but he managed, all the more impressive considering these opening spots on Rakei’s national tour marked his live debut. His delivery was confidant, his guitar playing deft and his vocals excellent, with good miasma and falsetto. He said one song was about an interesting girl, but aren’t they all (more or less)?

Up next was Sampology, playing what looked to be a very involving DJ set. He was constantly moving, shifting between sampler, vinyl scratching and building layers of loops with a shakers and his voice. A highlight was when Noah Slee, a collaborator from his latest release Natural Selections, came on stage to perform their track Be There. Slee’s soulful voice was a delight to hear, complimenting the laidback groove of Sampology’s instrumental. After Slee walked off stage a bevy of tracks where played, from a edited versions of Eddie Kendrick’s My People and a Dudley Perkins and Georgia Anne Muldrow track. Powering through some technical difficulties with the MPC, Sampology delivered, playing an eclectic set that had everything from steel-drums to acid-house. He finished off with the song Different Star, featuring local talent Laneous (of Vulture St. Tape Gang).

The crowd swelled to maximum capacity for the headliner. Rakei was greeted with adulation before launching into a smooth, slickly executed set of songs. The mood was mellow as his sensational live band/rhythm section (comprised simply of a drummer and bass and lead guitars) traversed the realms of soul, jazz, funk, and hip-hop. They were incredibly tight. No surprise as they’ve been touring for over six months.  That sort of work shows, the band totally in sync and on the same page as they changed keys at a drop of a hat. There was the occasional song transition that had just the bass and drums play together, laying down some heavy breaks. Their short but effective jazz-outs saw Rakei take keyboard solos – his face contorting into shades of pain and ecstasy.

His obvious repour with the homecrowd was heartening – making a shout out to South’s Rugby Club (met by guttural cheers from the back) and asking for permission to bring the vibes down for a down-tempo version of one of his tracks.  Towards the end he requested the audience use their library voices as he picked up the guitar. He used the guitar on the last numbers, playing chopping rhythms while singing. The band dashed off stage, the crowd immediately demanding more. They came back for what he described as a two-song encore - feeling more like a four song medley but who knows. They had left the dance-inducing track Talk To Me to the end, extending it and incorporating flavors (like dubby electric piano) from Rakei’s housey version of the track iigo (done under the pseudonym Dan Kye). He then got the crowd involved in a call and responses, first having the fellas sing, then the women, then bringing it all together.

One should note the show was sold out, and and deservedly so. His musicianship is remarkable, and his voice shiver inducing. I would have been greatly disappointed if his homecoming wasn’t at max capacity. But it was, reminding us what a talent Rakei is, and how lucky we are to have such an original talent come from Brisbane.

-Hamish Hill

Zed Facts

4ZZZ launched its glorious tradition of counting down listeners' 100 favourite songs on New Year's Day 1977. More than 10 years later, 2JJJ in Sydney (which employed many ex-Zed staff) began conducting its own Hot 100. Because 4ZZZ held the rights to the name Hot 100, there was a little bit of legal biffo when TripleJ became a national broadcaster, so they changed the name of their survey to the "Hottest 100".