[CONCERT REVIEW] Adult Jazz Silence The Crowd at London’s Electrowerkz
London crowds are a notoriously loud bunch. The amount of concerts ruined by the chitter chatter of obnoxious audience members, who for some reason feel there is a necessity to chat as loud as possible to the person next to them regarding the trivial ins and outs of their day is remarkable. But as Harry Burgess’ celestial voice sings unaccompanied “But I do and I have and I will” during the 10-minute epic ‘Spook’, there is a stunned silence around the room at London’s Electrowerkz (12th August 2014). This is a silence born of pure attention and awe, as Adult Jazz bring to life their astonishing debut record Gist Is, at what they call its “unofficial release party”.
Gist Is is a sprawling, beautiful and labyrinthine record. It is a record that rewards over time with its tempo changes and complex arrangements, which at first baffles the listener, before unfolding and becoming familiar and loving. But with such a complex record comes the equally complex task of performing the tracks in a live setting. But it’s a hurdle Adult Jazz navigate with such ease that it is slightly unnerving. Aided by the fact all four members are multi-instrumentalists, throughout the set the band employed a variety of instruments (trombone included) and electronics that faithfully recreated the sonics of Gist Is. Stunning opener ‘Hum’, for example, saw Burgess using duel-microphones in order to layer and pitch-shift vocals. While set highlight ‘Spook’, built to an almighty crescendo of duelling drums and distorted guitar-lines.
What was incredible about Adult Jazz’s performance, furthermore, was not only how they brought Gist Is to life but also how several of the songs benefitted in the live setting. Set closer ‘Idiot Mantra’ for example sounded massive, with its propulsive rhythm loud in the mix, while Burgess’ repetitive refrain “Been humming that idiot mantra for so long” proving a popular sing-a-long moment. Furthermore, ‘Be a Girl’, which segued on from ‘Spook’ again gained a new lease of life with its spiky groove. And Burgess’ vocal is even more striking in the live setting. His performance is one full of feeling and has an intangible intensity. His vocal inflections and wailing (in seemingly unformed vowels) gives the impression of a young man purging himself of negative energy while finding solace and comfort in performing live.
I get the impression that Adult Jazz do not fully appreciate how good they truly are. Burgess has, on numerous occasions, called Gist Is “a silly record”. This charming modesty not only heightens Adult Jazz’s appeal, but also begs to question where they will go next if Gist Is is a “silly record”. There is a glimpse to the future with a re-working of an old track*, which had a folk-like quality musically and lyrically, with a continuation of the religious themes found on Gist Is. But currently as it stands, this “silly record” has the power to bring rooms to sheer silence – and that is something that, in homage to the words sung on ‘Spook’, should not be taken lightly.
*Unfortunately I was unable to grab the track’s name. Any information would be much appreciated.