Concert Review: José James at The Standard

Last Saturday, I witnessed a soulful and seductive live performance by Brooklyn's own José James at The Standard in Sydney. That night, José James gave us a smooth and intimate performance, showcasing songs from his new album, No Beginning No End, accompanied by his talented band members, who each gave us a solo performance of their own.

José James at The Standard

Last Saturday night, I was in the exact mood that I’m in right now. I wasn’t feeling well, the rain was pouring and the general feeling outside was grey and depressing. Bed weather, as I often like to call it. I had no desire to leave the comfort of my home.

BUT, I had a commitment to do something that night and José James is one artist that I knew I just had to experience live.

And what an experience it was. If you like your RnB infused with elements of jazz, José James is one artist you need to listen to. In town to promote his new album, “No Beginning No End”, James played an intimate show at The Standard last Saturday night with support from Jones Jnr.

Sometimes you take a risk and you go to a gig early, not knowing who the support act is. This has happened to me before when I saw Arctic Monkeys last year and discovered Miles Kane. And this time, I decided to do that again. Show up a little bit early and try to catch the support act, because just from the name itself, I had no idea who Jones Jnr was.

Jones Jnr

BUT it turns out, I had actually heard their music before. Just the vocals over the early morning radio airwaves of triple j’s “Like A Version”. The vocalist in question had appeared on the Thundamentals cover of Matt Corby’s smash hit ‘Brother’, and as soon as I heard the lead vocals of Jones Jnr aka Ev Jones, it all clicked!

And Jones Jnr’s performance that night definitely struck a chord with the audience. The more songs that were performed, the more the crowd started to grow. By the time he was getting into the groove of his own beats and sounds, the more the audience was dancing along with him. Quite a sight to see! Jones’ vocals showcased a unique and raspy voice. It was very raw and gritty and definitely organic. All in all, I enjoyed the set and was rather impressed.

José James at The Standard_2

But of course, we were all there to see the main act on stage. Shortly after the set of Jones Jnr, the light dimmed and the band jumped up on stage. And they definitely set the mood playing a little instrumental set before José James joined them on stage for the opening track, ‘It’s All Over Your Body’.

José James – It’s All Over Your Body from the5to9life on Vimeo.

Woo! How do you feel after listening to that?
Because let me tell you, hearing that live was magnifique. Seriously. That particular song is also the first track of his new album, and I have to admit, when I first heard the record version, my only thought was, so seductive. Truly. What a voice!

It takes someone special to blend the soulful vocals and jazzy instrumentals of a great record into a live performance and making it even better. “No Beginning No End” is a smooth record, but hearing those tunes live, and with each song being extended because of the moment he was in was far, far better than any recording.

I think that’s why I love to concerts/gigs so much. To see if an artist can really sing or perform. To prove all the haters and critics alike that they’re wrong and that not every record is made with the aid of computers.

José James at The Standard_3

José James has that raw talent in spades. The voice of James on his records is his exact voice when you hear him perform live. During this particular performance, we heard him sing ‘Sword + Gun’, ‘Trouble’ which was dedicated to the “sexy ladies”, ‘Come To My Door’, ‘Do You Feel’, which he explained was the first song he wrote for the album, and later became one of his favourites, and ‘Vanguard’, with an added line from Frank Ocean’s ‘Super Rich Kids’. Swooning.

My highlight, however, was his cover of Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Amazing. The original is one of my favourite songs (ever) but James’ version took it to a fresher, jazzier level – especially when it was accompanied by a saxophone solo by Takuya Karoda.

José James at The Standard_4

And his other band members are just as impressive!

James really let his band members shine throughout his performance – particularly this one at The Standard. During different songs of his set, James allowed his band – made up of Takuya Karoda (saxophone), Solomon Dorsey (bass/vocals), Kris Bowers (keys), and Richard Spaven (drums) – to really shine on their own individually, without taking away the dynamic and live performance of the band as a whole.

Each band member is a maestro in their own field and it was great to see that highlighted that night on stage.

José James at The Standard_5

The only disappointing thing was although he went past his ‘curfew’ of performing almost until midnight, there was no encore. Boo.

Oh well, check out my other favourite of the night, José James performing ‘Trouble’.

Jose James – Trouble (Live in Sydney) from the5to9life on Vimeo.