Cosmic vibes and authentic talent dominated the stage Oct. 28 at August Hall in San Francisco, as Jordan Rakei and Sam Wills filled the venue with bluesy yet fresh tunes. Jordan Rakei, an instrumentalist, vocalist and producer, released his third album Origin in June. Originally from New Zealand and Australia, Rakei is now based in England. There, he met Sam Wills, another brilliant up-and-coming artist who he decided to take on tour with him. The two have a close friendship together and have collaborated in the past before, with Rakei producing some of Wills’ work such as his song “Years.”
Sam Wills started the evening off with plenty of funk and rhythm in his set, evoking the energy and liveliness of Justin Timberlake. He played “Years,” a catchy melody off his latest EP, Walking Underwater. His voice was refreshing and smooth as he sang “Come and take away my fears/smoke and drink away my years.” Wills kept the crowd engaged as he grooved away on his keyboard and danced. Wills then moved on to the title track of Walking Underwater, “Walking Under Water.” This song truly showcased the full range and dynamic of his voice, allowing Wills to soar on the high notes in an angelic falsetto and croon in his emotional tenor. He then treated the crowd with an unreleased song titled “Just Say.”
“In the Midst Of It All,” a collaboration with Tom Misch, was his next piece, delivered soulfully and tenderly. The energy went up a notch as Wills invited Australian-British instrumentalist Street Rat onstage for “Kool Aid,” a playful summer hit. Street Rat vibed on his guitar while Wills worked the stage, creating a perfect harmony. Wills sizzled off his fiery, magnetic performance with “So Bright” as his last song, singing: “Burn your fire babe.”
As Jordan Rakei entered the scene, a palpable anticipation filled the air. Street Rat rejoined him onstage. Rakei jumped right into the set, warming up the crowd with “Mad World,” an entrancing song off his latest album. He began the piece with raw vocals and white noise in the background, building and mixing the song as he went along by recording a loop of his vocals and creating a loop of rhythmic clapping as well. The song culminated into a multilayered masterpiece of sound.
The melody then diffused into the next piece, “You & Me,” a funky jazz-inflected piece with a charming sound. Next came “Sorceress,” an enchanting and spellbinding fusion of electronic synth and guitar. The subtle darkness of “Sorceress” blended into the more profound, enigmatic depth of “Eye to Eye,” which Rakei commented was about “becoming one with the darkness.”
To bring the crowd back to a lighter, more positive energy, Jordan Rakei played “Mantra,” which he said he wrote with a futuristic vision of writing a lullaby to his unborn child. The song was filled with positive affirmations and a sense of hope. Sam Wills then reappeared onstage once more to perform a soulful duo with Jordan Rakei, singing “Let’s make love in the morning.”
After that, Rakei went into a powerful rendition of “Wildfire,” followed by “Say Something,” and later on delivered a unique, masterful remix of “Street Light.” The set ended explosively, with back-to-back hits like “Blame It On the Youth,” “Rolling Into One” and electronic jam “Add the Bassline” rounding off the night. “Talk To Me” concluded the set on a glorious note, as Jordan sang “Riding on a high /Better than I was before.” The band then left the stage — the audience, yearning for more, clamored for an encore. Much to the delight of the crowd, the artists reappeared and played an energetic performance of “Mind’s Eye.”
As audience members shuffled out of the venue, there was a wonderful buzz vibrating among them, and everyone was delighted with the vibrancy of the performances. The concert put raw, unadulterated talent on full display and kept a soulful, jazzy current running through it all. With such vivid spirit and radiance, Sam Wills and Jordan Rakei are certainly going places.
Highlights of the set: “Years,” “Eye to Eye,” “Street Light,” “Add the Bassline”
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