It was hard not to fall head over heels for the jazz wunderkind.
Hey guys, just so ya’know, sex still sells. And at 170 Russell on a humid summer’s evening, it costs around $50. As Masego, the nom de plume of Jamaican/South African musician Micah Davis proves that if a sneeze is one-eighth of an orgasm then dancing that well, hitting those high notes and Charlie Parker-ing the shit out of a saxophone basically gets you all the way there.
And you can’t blame the ravenous, sex-starved crowd. Jamiroquai doesn’t tour much anymore so you gotta get your lounge/jazz pop fill wherever you can; or as the artist has called it himself, ‘trap-house-jazz’.
Arriving onstage in complete darkness, his opening note to the crowd is the swirling saxophone melody of ‘Tadow’. The crowd erupts and he might as well go home. He’s won already. He doesn’t so much have the crowd in the palm of his hand, but is feeding them like a mother bird regurgitating down their offspring’s throat. Gross, but you get the metaphor.
His vocal style owes as much to D’Angelo as he does Pharrell Williams, always straddling the finest of lines between poppy bridges and choruses and his neo-soul sensibility. The fact his haircut is straight outta Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ only adds another dimension to this cultural melange.
Touring his debut album Lady he does his best to pad out his set with jazz-funk wig outs, which usually involve his (incredibly talented) band jamming whilst he sings the words “girlfriend” and “beautiful” over and over in different octaves with a lot of “na nas”, “yeah yeahs” and “oh ohs” sprinkled in for good measure.
The ecstatic coos from the crowd, however, could not distract from the mind-bogglingly regressive backdrop, which was a synchronised video of girls stripping in silhouette, like a Boyz II Men clip from 1994 coming to life. The music is sexy enough and he should ditch the King Street vibes.
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That aside, it’s clear he knows his shit, with his call and responses to the crowd echoing Cab Calloway’s ‘Minnie The Moocher’ and an impromptu beatmaking lesson showing off his technical chops, as he builds a song from scratch whilst slowly unbuttoning his shirt and freeing the nipple. Utterly shameless.
But if you can look past the performative sex-show, his rapping is undeniably good and his sax playing is Bill Clinton level great. There’s an audible gasp every time he picks up the brass and he really should just give the people what they want and have it in-hand at all times.
Between songs he’s affable, charming and humble and can get the crowd to scream by simply skulling his water bottle. It speaks volumes that he’s more concerned about messing up his silk shirt than finishing the bottle in front of the adoring crowd.
The crowd rightfully loses their shit for ‘Send Yo Rita’, which you should probably have guessed samples the classic Justin Timberlake banger ‘Señorita’. A production move that’s so smart you wonder how no one had thought to do it before. It’s at this point he literally throws money into the crowd in a making-it-rain move. Is he Oprah? It makes no sense, but the crowd is in raptures. There are sounds being emitted from voice boxes that are on a frequency other humans cannot hear.
Predictably, he finishes with ‘Navajo’, his foolproof banger and a song that encapsulates his appeal. It’s harmless, cute flirtation is matched with a beat that Madlib would happily claim and a melody that samples of all the songs in the world, ‘Michelle’ by The Beatles. Quick question, how do you possibly make a Lennon/McCartney melody better? You play it on a saxophone.
Highlight: Mooarrrrr saxomaphone.
Lowlight: Learning post-gig that most of his on-stage banter is recited word for word at every gig.
Crowd favourite: ‘Tadow’. What an opener.