Jai Paul Emerges, Tentatively, for His First Headlining Concert

About 2,000 people were handed fragile items at the Knockdown Center in Queens on Tuesday night.

For the past decade, British electronic music producer and singer Jai Paul has functioned more as a memory than as a living musician. He released his two amazing singles in the early 2010s — “BTSTU (edit)” and “Jasmine (demo)” Before a set of his unfinished recordings leaked online in 2013, he released a broken soul song with modest confidence.

Since then, apart from the official release of those demo recordings in 2019, he’s been largely silent until this year. His show on Tuesday was his first true headliner concert, following his two weekend performances at Coachella earlier this month.

So this was a precious, expected, and frankly disturbing affair — the embodiment of a beloved, whimsical performer moving from fantasy to literal. Sorting.

As he did at Coachella, Paul delivered a rather contrived performance of a very natural song. On set, he was a luscious, sassy, ​​powerful singer.

But most of the time, he and pretty much everyone else in the room (a warm, if not a wild crowd) are overjoyed simply by being there, convening an event more than a concert, I made it a gathering of believers and patients. (Of course, the merchandise sold out before the show even started.)

Paul is already a nostalgic act, old and era, not just for his musical era, but for a time when the simple act of online mystery was novel and deeply emblematic of that era. I feel that it symbolizes deeply. Provocative. Here in his decade, his ardent following has been essentially leaderless, a testament to the power of his music and the power of his convictions.

That’s why the show’s opening stretch felt a bit like a test. The audience, stretching their necks to see what the hero looks like (shy, with sunglasses), was met with a series of Paul’s subtle tunes. “All Night” is a soothing watery soul song. His voice was solid, giving away dubs of sweetness cut with occasional thrilling screams. There are some things that don’t ask for much. His stout, sticky band held the room in place. Paul’s brother AK Paul on guitar, drummer Isaac Kijito, bassist Rocco Palladino and keyboardist Fabiana Palladino (both children of revered bassist Pino Palladino).

I was starting to feel like I was stuttering again in a career that had been pushed forward by small intrusions — single interview, was given in 2011. A very well designed website. Photo from UK real estate publication. a cameo In Season 3 of “Atlanta”.

The announcement that Paul would be performing at Coachella in January was as shocking in some circles as the news that the increasingly reclusive Frank Ocean would be performing. , Paul released two more songs under the title “Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones)”. (He played another “So Long” in Queens, the least noticeable of the night.)

Its rarity creates an almost uncontrollable sense of reverence, making Paul a folk hero for those trapped in the old, less-than-mindful (but not-so-wise) idea of ​​internet fandom. increase. On the one hand, a person who has lived patiently for ten years is on the verge of becoming godly. On the other hand, if you haven’t set expectations, there is no bar below them.

His standing here mostly felt like a triumph over fickle trends. On stage, the pole was provisional. The same performances of more established acts can be ridiculed. And it’s a shame that his debut was played in a chronically muddy-sounding venue, his proper non-festival live, even though Paul’s music is deliberately submerged sounding. bottom. (Wednesday night’s show at Brooklyn Steel probably sounds much more vivid.)

That said, I took the awkward moments like mana, but it wasn’t until the middle stage that everyone started to really enjoy themselves, both on stage and off. “Zion Wolf’s Theme” is a lilting dub number that sings about angst and was the first moment of a truly ecstatic and optimistic evening. Then came the Minneapolis funk-tinged “Good Time” and “Genevieve,” with sweet harmonies that moved with richness and blissful speed. Paul himself looked relieved and relaxed, taking a few steps away from the mic stand.

The one-two punch of “Jasmine” and “BTSTU” is flesh and purification. “Jasmine” remains a stone-cold soul classic, featuring shy vocals and a sultry, slick bassline. Even if the final moments were a little foggy, it was the high point of the night.

When the opening woo and coo of “BTSTU” kicked in, I couldn’t help but instinctively anticipate the opening lines of Drake’s “Dreams Money Can Buy,” which builds on the song’s sample. But when Paul sang “I know I’m long gone/But I’m back and want mine” — the first demo of the song was spotted on MySpace Words he wrote in 2010, or even earlier — it was a refreshing moment of defiance, a claim of existence from a performer who seemed unsure of how heavy the footprints were.

Closing the night, “Str8 Outta Mumbai” is one of Paul’s most brilliant and energetic songs, a rocketship launch of exuberance and rewards for years of anticipation. The joy it evoked was so dizzying that it was hard to believe it was the conclusion. It was a clever trick from someone with a vague idea of ​​the spotlight.

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