Jacob Collier Soared at Last Night’s Nu Deco Performance

February 16, 2018admin

By now, Nu Deco Ensemble‘s prowess is a well-known companion to many local music lovers. Their ability to deconstruct and re-build masterpieces before our very eyes is rare, and also their greatest strength. Last night, the chamber orchestra burst out of their home at The Light Box and into their first of two shows at The Arsht Center. The result was, as usual, far beyond already high expectations.

They kicked the show off with a powerful rendition of Bill Conti’s “Going The Distance” from Rocky. As you’d expect, it’s a hype song. Nu Deco added their textural flare and instantly got the audience’s attention, hanging on every movement. Only one word comes to mind: Attitude. This commanding piece was what set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Breaking barriers and defining Miami’s cultural potential are other recurring themes throughout Nu Deco’s shows. Last night was no different. They took Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Life of Plants to soaring heights. An ambitious suite for an equally ambitious album. The result was the perfect showcasing of Nu Deco (and Wonder’s) versatility, from slow and sweet to funky and complex.

Making the Masters Proud.

It wasn’t just one of the most innovative things to come out of Miami’s music scene that we were witnessing. It was also the deep-rooted love for Wonder himself that composer Sam Hyken holds dear. This respect and admiration is what the musicians drew from to create an exploration Wonder himself would be proud of. The Gershwin suite, too was a surprise. It presented both the classic tracks we know and love, and the incidental pieces with virtuosity oozing throughout.

Then, a grand piano and assorted instruments levitated onto stage. The theater took in a collective deep breath as Jacob Collier, the night’s special guest ran out, barefoot and full of energy. At 24, the British multi-instrumentalist has already won two GRAMMY awards and worked with the likes of Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock. If anyone didn’t know who he was before this performance, they sure do now. Skirting effortlessly on the keys, his genuine joy inspired the ensemble to loosen up and weave in and out of the tracks with ease.

They started with Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” each person a witness to the caliber of talent our city should be identified with more frequently. With a twinkling acoustic guitar in hand, they then played “Hideaway,” one of Collier’s most delicate endeavors. It was a rare moment of quiet love, where we could just as easily have been inside his living room, geeking out over shared interests. It felt as comfortable as home.

Mind-blowing Musicality.

As if Nu Deco Ensemble needed to show any more skill, the orchestra stood together and transformed into a choir for “In My Room.” The Beach Boys rendition spotlighted Collier at his finest, a masterful vocalist whose wonderful nature is as brilliant as they come. Have you ever seen a grand piano shake? We have. With Collier at the helm, the two musical forces got funky and swinging–the very best in their element.

The grand finale was reserved, of course, for a Jacob Collier original: “Don’t You Know.” A complex piece, it really was no surprise that this journey ended the night. Vocoders, piano solos, audience participation–not a serious face in the house. The entire performance together felt fluid and loose, full of playful explorations and improvised moments of magic. After this kind of step forward for the music community, one question must be asked: how can we help the whole world experience such pure magic? Nu Deco Ensemble has certainly made themselves a Miami staple, and we’re all the better for it.

Photos by Alex Markow.