Jacob Collier at the Hollywood Bowl: A Night Where Joy Meets Genius REVIEW+PHOTOS: Jacob Collier at The Hollywood Bowl 9/17/23
LOS ANGELES, CA- I’ve been privileged enough to witness countless concerts that leave a mark, but very few can transform your worldview in a span of a few hours. Such was the evening of September 13, 2023, at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. When music is as joyful as what we witnessed that night, one can’t help but think that the world is genuinely a better place. And who better to champion that sentiment than the prodigious Jacob Collier?
In 2017, amidst the electric atmosphere of SXSW, I stumbled upon this musical prodigy at a showcase orchestrated by BBC Radio 2, PPL, and PRS. It was there I first experienced Jacob Collier, the North London sensation, When he took the stage that evening, the magic was palpable. The one-man band delivered a mind-bending act, effortlessly weaving through instruments and manipulating complex musical elements. As he played, the room was enveloped in sheer amazement, with the audience, including myself, mesmerized by every note. It was a testament to his genius, a rare gem in the musical realm.
For those uninitiated, describing Collier as a “musical genius” doesn’t quite capture the breadth of his artistry. It’s one thing to be blessed with talent, but it’s a wholly different experience when an artist performs with as much infectious joy as he does genius. Last night was a testament to this beautiful fusion.
Opening with the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s rousing rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner”, the stage was set for an evening of unparalleled musical wizardry. As the last note resonated through the amphitheater, Collier made his majestic entrance.
Kicking off with an electric blend of “With the Love” and “Count The People”, it was evident from the first chord that this was to be no ordinary concert. The energy ebbed and flowed as he journeyed through “Hideaway”, the transcendental “Djesse”, and then teamed up a cappella with Take 6 for a soul-stirring cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You and I”. Each number was a universe in itself, pulling the audience into Collier’s galaxy of sounds.
But beyond Jacob Collier’s individual performance, what truly elevated this concert into an ethereal realm was the masterful orchestration intertwining with each track. The sheer genius of the arrangements, unmistakably having Collier’s fingerprints all over them, showcased a marriage between contemporary and classical sounds, painting vast soundscapes that magnified the depth of Jacob’s creations.
Take, for instance, “Hideaway”. In its original form, it’s a touching, intimate ballad. But with the full-bodied embrace of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, it took on a cinematic grandeur. The strings delicately swelled to capture the song’s tender undercurrents, while the woodwinds danced around Jacob’s vocals, creating a 3D sonic experience. The result? A song transformed from a personal whisper into an expansive declaration.
Then there was the arrangement for “Djesse”. Already a complex number in its studio incarnation, with the orchestra it became an epic saga. Collier’s keen understanding of harmony and rhythm found its match in the Philharmonic’s prowess. There were moments where the brass section took the lead, echoing Jacob’s intricate vocal acrobatics, only to hand the reins over to a whispering flute or a resonant cello, emulating the dynamic ebb and flow of the ocean. It was not just music; it was a story being told through sounds.
Witnessing Jacob Collier perform with an orchestra live is a transcendent experience, far beyond what can be captured through recordings. While recordings like those on “Djesse Vol.1” (which features Jules Buckley and the Metropole Orkest) offer a snapshot of the brilliance and complexity of the music, being present in the moment as Collier and an ensemble like LA Philharmonic.
These orchestral arrangements did more than just complement the genius of Jacob Collier; they transcended the limits of conventional concert experiences. They transformed the Hollywood Bowl into a portal, one where every note, every chord, and every silence transported the listener to realms hitherto unimagined. It’s one thing to attend a concert, but it’s a privilege to be a part of a musical odyssey – and that’s precisely what Jacob Collier, with the formidable Los Angeles Philharmonic and the brilliant Thomas Wilkins, delivered throughout the evening that unforgettable night.
The sheer force of an orchestra, with its many instruments and voices, envelopes listeners in a rich tapestry of sound that is both vast in scope and intricate in detail. Every pluck of a string, every breath through a woodwind, every beat on the drum resonates deeply, reverberating not just in the hall but in one’s very soul. And at the center of it all, there’s Jacob Collier—a prodigious talent whose vision and artistry seem to know no bounds. In the live setting, one can feel the synergy between Collier and the orchestra, a shared energy that fills the space with passion and dynamism. It’s almost hard to beleive that Jacob and the LA Phil only had one 3-hour rehearsal to put it all together.
Post-intermission, Collier debuted his latest single “Little Blue”, with the indomitable Brandi Carlile. Their voices, distinct yet harmoniously intertwined, spoke of new horizons in music. Yet, the heartfelt “Once You” with his mother, Suzie Collier, was the emotional fulcrum of the evening – a gentle reminder of where this journey began for him.
Alita Moses deserves a special shout-out for her duet with Jacob Collier on “All I Need.” She delivered a vocal performance that was nothing short of breathtaking. Every note she sang resonated with authenticity, effortlessly transitioning from delicate whispers to powerful crescendos. Her nuanced phrasing and soulful interpretation complemented Collier’s intricate arrangements, creating a harmonious interplay that elevated the song. Moses showcased a level of technical prowess that made her contribution to “All I Need” very memorable.
The night with a rambunctious cover of Lionel Ritchie’s “All Night Long” alongside Take 6, the audience was on its feet, dancing away any remnants of mundanity and a subdued encore of a traditional Scottish folk song, “Wild Mountain Thyme”.
In essence, Jacob Collier’s concert was a symphony of joy, a manifestation of what music can and should be. His genius, paired with the indomitable spirit of the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Thomas Wilkins, was not just heard but deeply felt. We left the Hollywood Bowl with our hearts a little lighter, and our souls humming tunes of joy and wonder.