Review // Jordan Rakei bares his soul on a spellbinding return

The Ninja Tune-signed artist returns to Bristol with his new jazz-infected, soul-laden album, Wallflower

Interview-Jordan-Rakei-Nitelife-2

Hot off the heels of the release of his acclaimed second album Wallflower, New Zealand-born singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Rakei returned to Bristol last month to treat a sell-out Thekla crowd to his unique brand of self-reflective soul.

Released last month on Ninja Tune, Rakei’s sophomore long player marks a notable progression from his 2016 debut Cloak. The jazz-infected rhythms and soulful swoon of his first record remain but with them comes a newfound lyrical and sonic maturity, resulting in the 25-year-old’s most personal and confident work to date.

The jazz-infected rhythms and soulful swoon of his first record remain but with them comes a newfound lyrical and sonic maturity

A sentiment no doubt shared by the eager Thekla crowd, who, within seconds of the first sultry strums of album and set opener Eye to Eye, were bobbing and swaying to Rakei’s myriad melodies. By the time the new and improved band had made the familiar transition into second track May, they were transfixed.

A master technician, Rakei skillfully moves between acoustic and electric guitar and keys throughout his sets, and it was on the latter that he continued Wallflower’s chronology with pitch-perfect renditions of Nerve and the epic, string-laden Goodbye, before taking the crowd in the palm of his hand for a beautiful rendition of Chemical Coincidence in his trademark falsetto.

taking the crowd in the palm of his hand for a beautiful rendition of Chemical Coincidence in his trademark falsetto

With this his third appearance in Bristol in just 18 months, following a support slot for Jamie Woon last March and a headline gig at the Louisiana in November, Rakei was keen to honour his loyal support in the city and chose to weave in a few fan favourites from his first record by way of tribute. Midnight Mischief, the anthemic epicentre of his first record, was met with a rapturous reception while the shuffling jazz percussion of Talk to Me rose to a soaring crescendo as Rakei’s new backing band broke the shackles for the first time.

Rakei was keen to honour his loyal support in the city and chose to weave in a few fan favourites from his first record by way of tribute

After a brief interval and a raft of protests for the crowd for more music, Rakei returned to the stage for a two-song encore, beginning with Wallflower’s haunting penultimate track Hiding Place. An aching arrangement of minor chords and fractured trip hop beats, Hiding Place is Rakei at his most vulnerable. A brave choice for an encore, but a risk the crowd delighted in as they stood in awe of the young singer-songwriter. Proceedings were suitably concluded with the memorable Sorceress – Rakei encouraging all to join in with him for the chorus as he riffed and harmonised to a unified conclusion.

A brave choice for an encore, but a risk the crowd delighted in as they stood in awe of the young singer-songwriter

It was a fitting end to a spellbinding performance from Rakei whose singular blend of jazz-inspired instrumentation and soulful harmonies is sure to see the New Zealander go from strength to strength in the coming years.

Words by Joe Carter

READ MORE >> Interview // Ninja Tune’s Jordan Rakei on getting signed, working with Disclosure and changing his sound

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