Jamiroquai deliver a dynamic showcase of nostalgic pleasures at ONBlackheath 2019
The weather for this July weekend isn’t as bright as promised, but grey clouds don’t hold festival-goers back. A healthy number of attendees come to Blackheath for the first day of ONBlackheath 2019, a music festival that prides itself on boasting “some of the biggest artists to suit every taste.”
First up is electronic music producer SG Lewis, whose laid-back, James Blake-ish vibes are ideal for letting the early birds settle in. Taking the second stage are MF Robots, fronted by Brand New Heavies alum Dawn Joseph. Her penchant for extravagant headdresses reaches its apex; she looks like a superhero with this glistening piece and certainly feels like one, considering the instant enthusiasm. This initial energy is maintained, if not increased.
Jacob Collier pounces onto the main stage with verve, launching into With the Love In My Heart, a piece so impressively arranged that it’s unsurprising he caught Quincy Jones’ attention. Throwing himself around the stage, he’s as eccentric as his odd socks and pyjama-tee combo. The ecstasy of jazz continues with Hideaway but the crowd seems unfocused, drowning the sound with their own noise.
James Morrison has several repeatable hooks such as in Feels Like The First Time and I Won’t Let You Go but he eschews pointing the mic in our direction and sings every word himself. Since his mainstream relevance has depleted, with his most recent album being his first to not enter the UK top ten, this may just be a droll act of self-awareness. Nevertheless, there’s astonishing passion in his delivery.
The Roots’ huge audience draw suggests they’re the main headliners. All eyes are on Black Thought, dressed in a regal Afro-patterned jacket emblazoned with his face. Unlike many rappers, he doesn’t skip a word or employ a backing track, effortlessly spitting the intricate lyrics of Web and Proceed. They’re the rare band who devote significant time to exhibiting each member’s dexterity, from Tuba Gooding Jr’s sousaphone ability to Captain Kirk Douglas’s guitar skills. The latter is literally spotlighted for a show-stopping medley of popular hip-hop songs.
Continuing to cater to the mostly middle-aged crowd are R&B legends Soul II Soul. Salt-and-pepper-haired fans tap into their student days to get their groove on to jams like Keep On Movin’ and Back to Life. As for the group, they have a strong presence – co-vocalists Jazzie B and Charlotte Kelly are flanked by coordinated dancers and sparkling violinists.
The theme for ONBlackheath 2019 is nostalgia. Turnouts for the classic acts have varied but we all still love Jamiroquai. The field is populated, everyone facing the stage in anticipation against the backdrop of funfair activities that make up a good portion of the festival area. Whilst other performers draw in men and women of a certain age, Jamiroquai command a healthy mix. Retrofuturist visuals are an unintentional metaphor for the demographic.
The acid jazz legends quietly slink into their places, but then frontman Jay Kay boisterously approaches the stage with the same glowing headpiece he wore at Coachella. The gear features colours that nicely change alongside the components of each composition, beginning with Shake It On, and are a supplement to the computerised aesthetic created by synths and graphics.
His distinguished voice is evergreen, consistently delivering the thrills that elevated his band to this status. Keyboardist Matt Johnson beams at the crowd joining in for the chorus of Little L. He’s one of the eleven(!) people on stage contributing to the nu-disco funkiness of (Don’t) Give Hate a Chance, Love Foolosophy and Cosmic Girl.
Kay bittersweetly says that their slot is limited due to respect for the neighbours. Fortunately, they don’t pull a Lauryn Hill and perform at 1.5x speed. Instead, what this results in is less audience engagement, which is shortened to indulge in a throwback to the year of each song’s release, and gratitude for our support over the decades.
For a hot minute, it felt impossible for anyone to follow The Roots’ dynamism, but the response to Canned Heat and Virtual Insanity proves it’s easy work for Jamiroquai. A pleasurably nostalgic showcase blessed by a beautiful sunset, it’s been a great time for all except the neighbours, though we strongly suspect they were dancing along too.
Photos: Arianna Cavalensi
For further information and future events visit ONBlackheath: Jamiroquai’s website here.
Watch the video for Virtual Insanity here: