Daniel Wilson at Servant Jazz Quarters
Daniel Wilson’s gospel upbringing is clear for all to hear: he has a brilliant voice, conveying power, soul and control. Such performing qualities will always make for a reasonably enjoyable concert, but there is an important element missing from the night for the Michigan-born singer/songwriter.
The set begins with cymbals splashing over dreamy major 7th chords oozing from the synth, while semi-indie yet endearingly ecclesiastical melodies are projected wonderfully from Wilson. Songs such as Boy Who Cried Thunder enter the atmospheric sound world of Frank Ocean, and this synthesised funk ambience complements the artist’s soulful voice like peanut butter and jam – they’re not really supposed to go together, but it just works.
Despite a slight lack of presence on stage – the only notable words heard in between songs are “oh my god I totally can’t see your faces” – Wilson ensures that his incredible vocal scope is fully displayed. Seamlessly gliding from a powerful, church-filling medium range into a delicate but intense falsetto, the American shows all the upper range expertise of an experienced counter-tenor.
However, as the night continues, it becomes clear that Wilson’s songwriting does not exude the idiosyncrasy needed to back-up his vocal ability. The clichéd romantic lyrics found in Killed Ya and If You Went Away are perhaps to be expected nowadays, but it’s still less than inspiring hearing that Wilson is just another guy who “wouldn’t know what do if you went away”. More importantly, though, Wilson’s potentially prosperous electronic sound is somewhat impaired by the unimaginative arrangement of his keyboard instruments. With his more upbeat numbers, this can give the effect of a juvenile Frank Ocean on one too many cups of coffee, destroying the languid air that made the latter so successful.
A lack of creative ingenuity is also shown in songs like Heartbreak and Proofread, which desperately lack that all-important but indefinable catchiness, perhaps originating from Wilson’s unwillingness to explicitly define a chorus structure in any of his songs. His late move to a stylish cover of Let’s Get Physical is therefore a slight relief from the swelling monotony of those simple synth chords.
Daniel Wilson undoubtedly has talent. However, the mark of a successful evening for a composer will always be whether the audience find themselves humming their way out of the door; despite Wilson’s best vocal efforts, his song writing doesn’t sufficiently stimulate the retentive memory of the audience.
Photos: Adriana Ayala
For further information about Daniel Wilson and future events visit here.
Watch a live performance of Boy Who Cried Thunder here: