Around 8:20 p.m. on May 8 at the House of Blues in Boston, the crowd was starting to get excited. “Jacob! Jacob! Jacob!” they chanted impatiently. The stage was adorned with a variety of plants and a picturesque park bench in the center. A rainbow of lights illuminated countless instruments. All that was missing from the set-up was musicians to play them.
Finally, English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier leaps onto the stage with the unbridled energy of a little boy. Dressed in bright orange parachute pants, a shirt adorned with monarch butterflies and no shoes – only mismatched colorful socks – he jumped to the front of the stage, ready to interact with his eager audience. He immediately engaged them in one of his call-and-response exercises, asking audience members to repeat his jazz riffs.
“My name is Jacob,” he told the crowd. “What is your?” He smiled as everyone shouted his name in response, countless voices echoing throughout the crowded room. Perhaps this simple exchange best sums up Collier’s approach to performance: his concerts are not just about showcasing his varied talents, but about fostering meaningful engagement with his audience. For Collier, live music is a shared experience, and he encouraged his fans to perform alongside him, often stopping to lead the audience like a choirmaster.
At just 28 years old, Collier has a diverse discography that refuses to fit into just one genre. “Djesse,” his ambitious four-album series, merges jazz and classical in the first volume, shifts to acoustic and folk in the second, and leans into R&B and EDM influences in the third; the fourth album has not yet been released. At the Boston stop on his Djesse Tour, he performed songs from his released “Djesse” volumes as well as his 2016 debut album “In My Room.”
Collier and his band started things off with the upbeat R&B pop song “Count the People” from “Djesse Vol. 3.”, which quickly energized the crowd. With his band at full speed, Collier glided onto the stage in his socks, running between drums and piano.Things slowed down when the band switched to the sultry R&B song “Feel,” which is replete with layered harmonies and evocative Collier lyrics – “Is there a place in the sky where the sky falls asleep?” he sang.
Collier’s performance of his 2016 song “Hideaway” was one of the concert’s first standouts — the crowd cheered as soon as he announced it. He sat down with his guitar, settling into the delicate ups and downs of the acoustic ballad that slowly gained momentum as it progressed. When Collier was at his most energetic, he would rise from the piano bench and play standing keys, rocking back and forth to the beat and smiling the entire time. “Hideaway” also featured his vocals as he sang passionately in his upper range at the end of the song.
“Who would be willing to get just a little funky?” Collier asked the crowd before pulling out his electric bass to perform “Time Alone With You,” a “Djesse Vol. 3-inch song featuring Daniel Caesar; the audience easily got carried away by its syncopated beat.
Like Collier, his band and backing vocals never failed to impress. The “In Too Deep” duet featured backup vocalist Alita Moses taking half of the song from Kiara Lede, and her powerful voice – which Collier described on stage as a mix of Ariana Grande and Ella Fitzgerald – was a hit. gave the song a new dimension. Another duet captivated the audience when surprise guest Lizzy McAlpine, a rising singer-songwriter, took the stage to sing “Erase Me,” her new song with Collier.
Collier ended the concert with “All I Need” and “Sleeping on my Dreams,” two of his most upbeat songs from “Djesse Vol. 4.” With more excitement than ever, the crowd jumped up and down and swung his arms in the air back and forth to the rhythm. Even after Collier left the stage, the audience was not ready for the end of the evening: they sang for an encore until for Collier to bravely return to the stage. He and his band gathered comfortably on the bench in the center of the stage to perform the joyful folk song “It Don’t Matter”. Collier then continued with an inspired interpretation of ” Blackbird” by the Beatles, steeped in beatboxing throughout.
Collier chose to end the concert not with her own song or even with her own voice. Instead, he divided the audience into several sections and led the crowd in a choral performance lasting over five minutes. When he wanted the audience to go up a note, he simply pointed his finger up, and when he wanted them to go down the scale, he pointed down. With this straightforward method of conducting, he orchestrated beautiful harmonies, with audience members’ voices blending, overlapping and resonating throughout The House of Blues. With this ending, Collier fostered a truly unique experience that made his fans feel like they were part of something bigger than themselves – as if the concert was about them as much as it was about him.
—Arts Chair Jaden S. Thompson can be reached at [email protected]