Written By | Herbert Taylor
Hailing from Australia, Jordan Rakei brings a unique soulful sound to audiences worldwide. I have been waiting to see Jordan perform in Detroit since joining his mailing list sometime in 2013. Over the years, his newsletter would provide notifications regarding tour dates but most shows were in the UK. Eventually a New York date surfaced, This gave me hope! Almost a year later a Detroit show was scheduled as part of Jordan’s first North America tour in 2017.
Due to one of the worst snow storms the area has seen taking place the night of the show, I ended up not going. When the opportunity to see Jordan Rakei live in collaboration with IMPRINT Entertainment surfaced, I was delighted and very grateful.
Keswessa, a vocalist from Detroit opened the show around 7:35pm. Her set was very “spacey” and laidback. Her music is a fusion of house, R&B, and hip hop. She sang a number of original songs the audience was receptive to. She caught many attendees by surprise when she and her DJ/producer performed a drum n bass cover of the iconic Outkast song, “Spottieottiedopaliscious”. She sang a jazzy scatting variation of the chorus and recited the entire Big Boi spoken word verse that is in the song. It was very impressive that she was able to perform this part of the song and arrive at the chorus in time with the remixed instrumental that the DJ/producer was sequencing live on stage. She ended her set with the eclectic/ethnic influenced song, “To Find” which has gotten her a lot of exposure due to its cinematic music video.
By 8:15 pm, the second opening performance by Sam Wills was beginning. Sam is a singer and keyboardist from London who is travelling the full length of the tour with Jordan Rakei. Accompanied by only his keyboard, Sam sang and played his heart out. He performed with the utmost passion. His first two songs were sung in falsetto then sang in an alto range when he brought out a guitarist who goes by the name of “Street Rat”. The duo performed Sam’s song “Kool Aid”, an upbeat song that got the crowd moving a bit.
Once Sam finished up, just minutes later Jordan Rakei’s band rushed the stage. As they lifted their instruments Jordan began recording a synth loop, twisted a few nobs, hit a button then started clapping into the nearest microphone with his eyes closed. Some of the audience began clapping with him. The loop continued as he moved over to the keyboard and began singing the opening lyrics to “Mad World”. The crowd’s anticipation for the performance was evident, responding in excitement to the soulful lyrics and the distinct piano chords.
The energy was up and Jordan Rakei was deliberately taking us on a mellow ride as he progressed through his set. There was a pulse in the room that increased from song to song. Jordan attempted to go right into the song “Alright” with an acapella intro but he was taken away by how nearly all of the audience jumped right in singing with him. He stopped and began blushing. While smiling, he tried to start the song again but this time even more people began singing with him. He smiled once more and restarted the song a third time. This was truly a special moment of the evening.
Most of the concert Jordan played keys but midway through, he moved to guitar for a few songs. Before moving forward, he began chatting with the audience saying that this was his second time in Detroit. Then asked who came out that last time. He recalled the snow storm and thanked everyone who made it to that show.
The entire night I thought to myself how in sync the ensemble was as a whole. They were tight! Street Rat was with the band and had a few solos. He is a pure talent. Obviously influenced by Lenny Kravitz, as he improvised playing with passion. His playing style promoted numerous reactions of, what my wife and I call the “stank face”.
Before singing “Sorceress”, he expressed how he battles with social anxiety and negative self talk. His self talk is what he used to develop the lyrics of this song.
Being a musician, I tend to be critical of musicianship, dynamics, and mixing. I’ve attended many shows at El Club and Jordan Rakei is by far the best mixed live show I have seen at this venue. Emily King’s concert was a close second.
If you are reading this and on the fence about buying tickets to a Jordan Rakei concert, I would recommend buying the ticket and going for the ride. There are not many artists making original music who can sing, write, play guitar, and play keys with a sound reminiscent of Jason Mraz, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder. I am sure Jordan will become more of a known name if he continues to stay true to his art and being vulnerable in his music. That is what Jordan brings… Vulnerability, Passion, and Pure Soul…
Photo Credit | Herbert Taylor