Live Report: Majid Jordan – Kentish Town Forum, London

Toronto duo bring a neon-lit jam session to London...

“London, thank you for the best show of our tour, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” singer Majid Al Maskati declares a few times throughout the set. A grandiose statement, oft utilised by acts wanting to sate the crowd’s appetite for endearment, in exchange for feedback. Given the packed-to-the-brim venue, the voluble sing-alongs with the crowd and the conviction with which Maskati and producer Jordan Ullman deliver their brand of digital R&B – in a set that clocks in at a very generous 90 minutes – it’s a sentiment that is more than justified.

Clash is present on the sold-out London show of the duo’s ‘The Space Between Tour’, currently on its European Leg. The pair have a symbiotic relationship, showcasing one another’s gifts but thriving as a collective – Majid the vocalist, serenader and hype man, Jordan the production whiz kid and technician.

Jordan arrives first, blue hair and all, the stage set-up at first glance austere. As soon as the first keys were struck, the structure lit up, beaming in synchronicity with the notes, leading into the distortions and sonic distillation of ‘Intro’ from sophomore LP, his interpolations thriving through a Daft Punk-level, audio-visual experience.

The neon illumination proved to be a nifty, multi-purpose backdrop, setting the tenor with each segment of the show. For the more sedate part of the show, which included ‘Decisions’ and the shimmery boudoir ballad ‘You’, the lights would creep slowly from one side to the other, when the set amped up with newer tracks ‘One I Want’ and the infectious Digi-funk of ‘Body Talk’, the neon lights would resemble stars falling. An aesthetic mood board, it coincided nicely alongside Jordan’s retro-futurist production, built on a foundation of 80s synth-pop and techno energy, making it a technicolour reverie for the audience.

The duo progressed with their set, respectful of their earlier material, a narcotic blend of smoky, progressive R&B, crowd favourites such as ‘Small Talk, ‘OG Heartbreak, and ‘My Love’ garnering a substantial back and forth between Majid and the crowd, whom never really relented in their energy. Majid succeeded as the focal point of the act, covering swathes of stage, employing some MJ-level audacity in his moves, ushering the miscellaneous crowd to sway along with him. His voice, although pitched to provide a greater clarity and resonance, took on different shades and auras as the tempo shifted. Some of the nuance in his voice got lost in the ether, at times drowned out by the reverb, but he’d make up for it by employing some Arabic melisma, a nice idiosyncrasy in a set fashioned from referential sounds.

The set mirrored the seamless transitions of their newer record, playing like a continuous mix, only ever intercepted by the duo’s past hits. The newer songs moved away from the darker tints of their previous album, instead painting in an upbeat, sunset tones. This gave Jordan license to veer a bit further off course, employing ambient, Kraftwerk-level synth flourishes and even some Italo-disco, a genuinely thrilling, off-kilter component part of the show.

There is something refreshing about Majid Jordan who exist as an anomaly in a genre that thrives on nihilism and dark debauchery. The duo evade profanity and the excessively crude in favour of a sound that pursues something a bit more enduring. It is radio-ready, but that translates to a universal experience, no more evident than in a live setting. Majid Jordan aren’t particularly laden with whether or not it works, so much as crafting a neon-lit jam session where everyone is invited.

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Words: Shahzaib Hussain

Related: Live In The Moment – Clash Meets Majid Jordan

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