It was past 7 p.m., and the line at the House of Blues wrapped around the building with no sign of when the doors would be opening. British singer-songwriter Jack Garratt would be kicking off his first headlining tour in the United States and Canada with this performance.
The first act to perform was Brooklyn-based Brasstracks, a duo consisting of Ivan Jackson playing the trumpet and deejaying and Conor Rayne on drums. Brasstracks kept the energy high with their eclectic fusing of dance, hip-hop and jazz. Several songs they performed were written and recorded for their EP, but they also played over remixes of R. Kelly’s “Ignition” and Rihanna’s “Work,” raising the question: What is an original song?
After a couple covers, the duo brought out guest artist S’natra, a rapper from Harlem for whom Jackson produces. S’natra performed “Lemme Put This Cup Down” and “Feelin’ Good,” both songs produced by Jackson. Jackson’s trumpet broke in the middle of their performance, leaving Rayne to carry the song. For their final number, they brought out Alexander Lewis — a Bay Area producer and trombone player. Lewis and Jackson happily performed “Day 1” before bouncing off the stage for Jack Garratt.
In the middle of the stage was an odd rig labeled Jack Garratt, in case any of us forgot. It contained a drum set, percussion pad, keyboard, microphone, synthesizer and guitar. Garratt was going to play all of his songs by himself. He walked on stage, waved at the crowd then launched into “Breathe Life.” By looping each instrument he built the song up, creating a multi-instrument sound without other musicians. Each jerking movement was directly correlated to a sound.
After two songs, a cord to the percussion pad had been dislocated, but Garratt recovered by playing the actual drum set right beside it while men in dark clothing rushed out to fix it. His amp made discordant sounds whenever he tried to move with the guitar. Along with a loud pop and something not working quite right toward the end of the night, technical issues were more prevalent than he had expected.
Garratt expressively spoke to the audience, laughing without prompt as the crowd sang along to “Weathered.” When the crowd chanted “One Man Band,” he played an improv jazz piano piece and jokingly played a cover of the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song right after. “It’s been a difficult show for things that are out of my control,” he said, but the audience roared in reassurance.
He played the explosive “Fire” second to last. The song ended in a flash of light, followed by a brief moment of darkness with which he vanished. The crowd stood in stunned silence, and someone murmured, “Is he dead?” The stage lights came back on, and he rushed up, almost out of time for his last song, “Worry.”
Date: September 18, 2016
Location: House of Blues San Diego
Image Courtesy of Surf Lodge