Traversing space and time with Nicolas Jaar
Seeing NICOLAS JAAR in the flesh is definitely a bucket list moment for any die hard electronica fans. Last Tuesday night we were lucky enough to check it off ours, and boy did it surpass any of our expectations. Touring as part of Golden Plains festival, Nicolas Jaar ventured to Sydney earlier this week for two intimate performances at The Metro theatre. The NY based artist took punters on a journey through space and time, commanding the room from start to finish. There was a genuine electricity in the air.
There were a few stand elements from Nicolas Jaar‘s live performance. Firstly, Nicolas Jaar‘s approach to live performance is as unique and unequivocal as his sound. Unlike so many artists who build their electronic performances around a few core elements, Jaar takes it to another level with his complex layering and filtering, quite literally building his tracks live on stage. Interesting percussion is at the core of Nicolas Jaar’s tracks, combined with interesting sounds like water he builds his mosaic. Every layer adds texture, building a rich atmospheric soundscape. From eccentric Middle Eastern Flair, to bluesy guitar and esoteric reverb, there’s no guessing where Jaar was going to take listeners next.
Secondly, Nicolas Jaar has this incredible intuition; he trusts his instincts, and it really comes across as his performance unfolds seamlessly. He has this ability to read a crowd, and draw them in with sincere passion and intensity, it’s hard to believe that Jaar is only 26. One of the pinnacle moments was the intense, and emotional live build up of ‘Space Is Only Noise,’ light and shade evolving with finesse. We’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it.
Aside from Nicolas Jaars‘ intense passion, and prodigal musical abilities, the visual element was second to none. Throbbing with anticipation, the eerie, smoke-filled stage set the mood, while the audience eagerly awaited Jaar’s appearance. A single floodlight shone above him and was met by erratic, flashing, white lights giving the dramatic effect of lightning, and working perfectly with the crackling buzz of electronica. The spotlight played an instrumental role in setting the mood, changing colour and adapting with the sound. The lights looked amazing set against Jaar‘s smoke screen and shadowy figure. As the mood and intensity lifted, so too did the level of visual stimulation. There were red and blue coloured lasers, and right when the performance hit its dramatic peak, twenty bold orange lights shimmered brightly behind Jaar to fully illuminate him.
One thing that really interesting stuck with us about his performance, was the fact that Nicolas Jaar was totally uninhibited by genre conventions. Each Nicolas Jaar album is a totally different body of work, and as such his performance was highly reflective of this. Whilst you can never mistake a Nicolas Jaar tune, there is a lot of diversity in his back catalogue. Despite the general trend of catering to audience expectation, Jaar explored his diverse influences, and took the audience on a journey.
The element of surprise goes a long way when performing. Right when the audience thought the magic was over, Nicolas Jaar came out to perform an epic encore. It was incredible to see Jaar move into a really soulful place towards the end of the show. There were some almost biblical feels, which seems to be a strong theme across a lot of his music. One song that absolutely grabbed the audience was his tune ‘What’s The Name.’
There’s been a lot of contention around whether or not Nicolas Jaar is over hyped. After witnessing his live set on Tuesday, it’s safe to say that the hype is absolutely justified. Aside from the striking visuals, Nicolas Jaar has a commanding stage presence, that immediately captured the audience. Arguably one of the best electronic performers of our time, Nicolas Jaar could definitely teach a producers a thing or two about commanding a stage.
Words by: ROSIE RAE