As befitting of someone whose breakthrough album, 2005’s Multiply, reveled in manifold personalities, Jamie Lidell is a chameleonic performer. Although with each new release comes such guarantees as some of the lushest white boy soul vocals and smoothest soul jams of the new millennium, the way Lidell will present these attributes live is always up for speculation.
Lidell’s most recent release, the slow, jammier than ever Compass, has the soul and the beats to match and exceed its predecessors, but how will the songs match up live? Will the audience at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg be treated to a soul revue complete with backing band in fun costumes ala the Jim shows of 2008, or will it be a bare bones affair, featuring just Lidell and lots of boxes to twiddle?
As should be the case with an artist making big yet slick strides, neither scenario unfurled in Williamsburg. Instead, the crowd was treated to something like a cross between a mystic love den (an undeniable smell of incense heralded the band’s entrance) and the closest Lidell has gotten to presenting a “rock show.” Lidell even strapped on a guitar for Compass highlight, “Coma Chameleon”, written by Beck and sounding a little like another Beck-penned highlight of the year, Charlotte Gainsbourg’s “Trick Pony”.
While Lidell’s backing band for the Jim tour featured guitarists outfitted as daredevils and a stage-stealing saxophonist who sometimes wore nothing but a smoking jacket, the Compass band is more uniformly indie in appearance. A fool would even use the term “hipster,” then quickly retract when they saw just how “aw shucks” happy the three young men backing Lidell appeared to be. Lidell—dressing up a pair of plain black lounge pants and a t-shirt with a vest festooned with tinkling bells—kept up an energetic and resourceful appearance, sometimes even using said vest as an instrument.
The emotional high point of the gig came after Lidell bid his band adieu for a few minutes and broke out the techno equipment to showcase his famous technique of live sampling and looping his vocals, a process which turned the venue into an all-out rave. Shortly after the strobe lights stopped flashing and the audience came down, Lidell launched into Jim single “Another Day”. Starting out as an A capella performance, the lights were soon turned to the audience, who loyally sang every word of the chirpy, slightly Bachrachian tune. After the disembodying effects of the techno segue, it was a warm and surprisingly concordant moment. In this expanse of the show, Lidell proved that he can do it all, from being a masterful DJ to an effective and engaging leader.
Perhaps an even warmer moment came when Lidell presented “Your Sweet Boom”, another Compass winner. Lidell, who earlier in the set had dedicated a few songs to any gypsies that were present, gave a shout out to his girlfriend before launching into the song, maintaining that she had the sweetest of booms. For a performer like Lidell who can engage an audience but also operates under a very flashy guise, it was a sweet glimpse behind the curtain, one that guaranteed the audience would leave feeling loved-up, whether or not they had any clue what Lidell was talking about.
With his flawless delivery and unpredictable yet endearing persona, it would appear Jamie Lidell has enough to make it in the mainstream. As he joked more than a few times throughout the set, he has yet to release a song that could be considered a universal hit. Male performers with more than a little eccentricity to their name still struggle to be accepted by the masses, but Lidell has definitely proved he is not content staying one way for long. As his live shows continue proving, he may one day turn into the adored by millions front man he’s meant to be.
Where’d You Go
The City (solo)
Little Bit More (solo)
Another Day (solo)
When I Come Back Around (solo)
Your Sweet Boom
Little Bit Of Feel Good (encore)