Jamie Woon The Hoxton, Toronto ON, February 4
Published Feb 05, 2016There are few artists more endearing onstage than Jamie Woon. Despite spots of frenetic adjusting, including a couple instances where the microphone dropped, the songwriter's first Canadian gig ultimately ended with an uproar from a crowd unable to resist the sultry rhythms ebbing their way. The set drew heavily from his new sophomore album Making Time and played out like a beautiful dance between Jamie and his backing band, who added rich texture to tracks typically praised for their simplicity.
Woon has a reputation for going back to basics. Following up 2011's Mirrorwriting, his latest record has cut down on pop-influenced beats in favour of heavy harmonic dependencies that take advantage of airy minimalist backgrounds. Since his debut, Woon has also diversified his vocal portfolio, featuring on tracks by Disclosure and the utterly brilliant Portico tune, "Memory of Newness".
His Toronto gig showed off this new range, helped by his supporting cast's penchant for creating tantalising R&B charged undercurrents and letting the bassist and keyboard player run loose in front of the audience. "Spiral" conceded room for a hypnotizing drum solo, while "Forgiven" heard Woon's uninhibited back-up vocalists harmonize with a freedom usually reserved for singing in the shower. These two back-up singers, placed almost centre stage on par with Woon, hummed delcately in key, crisply synchronized with the instrumentation behind them. On "Celebration", in absence of guest vocalist Willy Mason, one of them still managed to provide the bellowing rises with consummate results. Also stepping into the role of mediators between Woon and his fans, the end of the show saw them take on hype-up duties, generating emphatic clapping and guiding to the audience to gospel-like revelations.
It more than made up for brief early moments of awkwardness, like the crowd's slow warm-up through to opening track, "Movement." And if the ensuing basslines alone weren't convincing enough to get those in attendance moving, an impressive cover of Aaliyah's universally admired "Try Again" injected a perceptible fluidity into the onlookers' feet. Anyone expecting the show to take on the similarly slower pace of Woon's new LP, was steamrolled by a charged bricolage of amplified soul, proving that the new songs are definitely adaptable to large live settings.
He did regularly swap in his acoustic guitar, though — his tuner probably completed a marathon going on and off stage — which seemed to provide a safe retreat for Woon from the humbling nerves displayed during his stage banter. That juxtaposition, though momentarily frustrating, revealed insight into a creator still vulnerable to the power his own tracks. The force with which Woon was emotionally sucked in could have fooled anybody into thinking this was his first time performing them.
Matching uplifting verses with a poorly concealed timid smile, heavier guitar chords with a passionate kick in the singer's step, and downhearted tones with caressingly soft vocals, Woon encapsulated why his music is so intriguingly intoxicating in the first place. His tender emotion is inseparable from his craft.