Ironically, the last time this writer saw Jamiroquai live was September 10th, 2001 - a show that displayed Jamiroquai in spiritual and identity disarray, yet still a solid force. After a four-year absence, the release of the new record Dynamite reintroduces Jamiroquai to a new generation that is only familiar
with "Canned Heat" because it was featured in the popular film Napoleon Dynamite. It's an apt irony that the new record burns fire yet gets panned by out-of-touch blogga-losers. At the October show at the newly opened Nokia Theater Times Square, many "Vote for Pedro" shirts were spotted, a corny example of how Jamiroquai fights to be relevant here in the States no matter how enormous a figure Jay Kay is globally.
I was indeed surprised to find out that Jamiroquai had sold out the 3000+ capacity Nokia in advance for two nights against British royalty, a reunited Cream down the block at Madison Square Garden. The different types of fans Jamiroquai attracted on this first cold and rainy autumn evening was remarkable: fashionistas, B-Boys, hippies, and hipsters, disco queens and silky sisters, and Wall Street glory days revisited. Who's who and who's hip?! It had been four long years since the once uber-hot British trendsetters were running shit with monumental performances at Roseland Ballroom with the blitzkrieg "Traveling Insanity" tour of 1997, or the deeper underground, dark disco en fuego of the "Odyssey" showcase the night before 9/11, and the groovers and shakers had long been awaiting Jamiroquai's return to Gotham.
Jay Kay stormed the stage dancing his patented moonwalk-on-water, pop'n'lock steezo, and his band dropped into a vicious house-ified "Canned Heat," the Synkronized single rechristened in Napoleon Dynamite. The house was up and dancing, standing room was limited, and up jumped the bourgeois boogie! The band hit the disco breakdowns, and Jay was a whirlwind of motion while belting out the Studio 54 vibes. Instantly the room was transfixed, as the audience would remain amidst the squealing women and tidal waves of dancing droves. Another single, Odyssey's "Little L" followed, a cute and bouncing disco-house number that treads on the frozen lake of pop with that clubland edge that keeps it off the radio. It was evident early that despite their relative anonymity, this lineup was both well-rehearsed and finally confident in delivering their unique goods. Bridging the gap was the sexy-as-a-motherfucker "Cosmic Girl" from Traveling, which elicited shrieks and screams from those outer-spacial ladies who commanded the floor. The 'Jam-massive' danced as enigmatically as Mr. Kay to the space boogie sex machine. "Cosmic Girl" reawakened the sleeping giant, the sheer enormity of the future funk was transmitting gloriously through the Nokia soundboard and pushed the sonic envelope to another level, where it remained throughout the show.
Derrick Carter has been manning the drums since Space Cowboy, so when that
glorious song was delivered in faithful and inspired fashion, it was Carter leading the troupe through the frenetic grooves. New bassist Paul Turner, in the fold only since April, held down the virtuoso Zender bass parts with seeming ease, and Matt Johnson's sultry rhythms on Rhodes had people finally getting over Toby Smith. "Space Cowboy" is a timeless anthem, one that encapsulates a moment in time and transcends changes in musical and social climate to claim relevancy today. The same can be said for the spirited take on Emergency's finale, "Revolution 1993," which is a precursor to STS9 in both its sonic and social commentary. This song's powerhouse ghetto-tech drum & bass reaches skyward in an emotional climax. Rob Harris, the guitarist whose joining Jamiroquai in 2000 has most affected its sound and energy, gave "Revolution" its hard-charging electricity.
Derrick Carter - Jamiroquai
"Dynamite" is a disco-funkdafied banger that deserves title track status. Jay's passionate affair with disco has certainly hijacked the last three releases, and "Dynamite" is evidence that it can be done to supernatural proportions. The cold-as-ice vocals surf about a white-hot fatback disco, and on this night, the three female backup vocalists rode this wave to a seductive peak. The band followed with its pop-flavored single "Seven Days in Sunny June," a top-of-the-pops summer sing-along that made waves this past season. Its inviting acoustic guitars and soothing pianos push into contemporary arenas; however, it clearly resonated with funkateers, registering in the classic Jay Kay love song territory. He had each fine female in the Nokia pining away and singing along word-for-word.
"Light Years" is another prophetic track from Space Cowboy. Though the band tends to favor the newer material (much to the chagrin of this writer!), they simply cannot avoid the relevancy and timeless anthem that is "Light Years." Pianos and a jazzy bottom end anchor this high-energy blast of caustic global warning, poignant modern irony wrapped in a then-ahead-of-its-time structure that continued to 'wow' in 2005.
"Use the Force" was a thunderous, charged Traveling Without Moving track that showcased the frenetic polyrhythms of percussionist Sola Akimbola, the second senior member behind Carter with a decade in the Jam'. He has always been the special blend, the Latin flavors and African riddims pulsate throughout his playing. Jay danced a feverish jig during "Force," slip-sliding all over the stage while spitting melody and sweating up a storm. Matt Johnson stepped to the forefront during Synkronized's dark and brooding "Black Capricorn Day," a song I might have traded for an older classic. The band surprised most with the inclusion of a serious sleeper off of A Funk Odyssey. An up-tempo sexy vehicle that transcends any particular style, "You Give Me Something" was one of the highlights of the night, each player at his best and Jay pushing them to sonically seduce any and every broad in the joint. It was pure ecstasy, a climax of sorts, and Jay reminded New York they were the only North American audience to have heard this song live. It was a remarkable recollection, later made sweeter by the realization that the song was not in the set per usual but a repeat treat for the Big Apple after the events on that fateful September Tuesday.
Sola Akimbola - Jamiroquai
Another disco track from Odyssey followed, the sweet sing-along lover's quarrel "Love Foolosophy," a speedy song with a huge vocal refrain and glowing female disco vox. Again, not a bad song, but a spot in the set that could have used any one of the countless classics omitted from the set, like "When You Gonna Learn," "Emergency," "Half the Man," "Manifest Destiny," or "Traveling." Even latter-day cuts like "Butterfly" were unfortunately absent from the performance.
They did, however, deliver an unbelievable version of this writer's all-time favorite Jamiroquai jam - the crunkdafied "High Times" off Traveling. The cautionary tale of life in the fast lane was delivered in punishing, merciless fashion with a positively unshakeable groove. Jay's dancing was a Whirling Dervish, his spirited vocals filling the room atop the crushing four-to-the-floor sonic boom that is "High Times." The placement of the song, as the show began a slight turn downward, couldn't have been better. Jay Kay is still the epic bandleader, still the skateboard B-Boy, a slave to every groove, and his steez remains produce fresh.
Jay Kay - Jamiroquai
The newer jam "Time Won't Wait" was just a buffer before the orgasmic anthem "Alright" was delivered with pomp and bombast and an undeniable dance groove. The sing-along refrains rang loudly throughout the new venue as every ass in that spot was straight skanking out while Jay was reveling in adulation and crooning for the still-screaming females. They stretched out this party jam, with solos from most players and a trance-like break that just pulsed and pushed the riddim to outrageous proportions.
To cement the evening of reconnection and a sort of rebirth, Jamiroquai delivered an emphatic blast to close the show - a titillating encore. "Deeper Underground" is a sinister groove that is as heavy as these boys ever done gotten. It's been remixed countless times and in a myriad of ways. Its hook and dive-bomb juno-bass are an infectious taste of organic clubland psychedelia. Jay took it even deeper, so much deeper, than the ominous eve before 9/11, when it was the highlight of that show. Tonight, he pushed and drove the band to the depths of distorted, digitized chaos, never forsaking the trance-like motion of its bouncing bottom end. Rob Harris brought his chunky funk with a dark side and challenged Carter to derive even more demented rhythms from within his now-tortured kit. Kay strutted like the smooth criminal that he is and told us they'd be back in March. And wit that, the funkateers and New York's funkiest made their way into the London-esque dark rainy night.
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