Fog Machines and Specters: Nicholas Jaar at UC Theatre


Nicolas Jaar’s ineffability made it known the moment of his arrival and departure. Humility, maybe. Surrounded by a thronging crowd for over an hour, some half-drunk and others a smear of lit-up sneakers and ambiguous costumes, waiting was a study in patience. In the interim, deciphering other concert goers’ Halloween costumes proved a fun way to pass the time. Cat girl? Firefighter? I asked a guy on the upper terrace what his bubble costume was, hoping for bubble boy (tooth fairy). After an hour and half of cyclical feet shuffling, Nicolas Jaar made his onstage appearance. Dimly lit and shuffling between wires and synth, he too could have easily been a backstage tech or the spooky mentality of the audience coming to fruition. A ghost! Then, without introduction, he began.


The greatest apology for a late arrival is, of course, a dank set. Nicolas Jaar delivered. He cycled through the track list for his newly released Sirens, an album of contrasts. He included fan favorites Mi Mujer and Space is Only Noise if You Can See. The latter was aptly timed, deep, echoing voice and background buzz seemingly straight from an Halloweenesque horror film. If the undead could bop their heads to a tune, it would be to this. His stand-out tracks were Killing Time and Three Sides of Nazareth. Both ten-minute pieces took the audience on a post-apocalyptic journey with contrasting distorted vocals, snyth, and keyboard painting the imagery. Killing Time’s irony was not lost on me, especially when considering the previous long wait. Live art got no more live than that.


While it was somewhat hard to dance, let alone even sway, to Nicolas Jaar’s performance, it was no less than an experience. And by experience I mean the longer I listened, the more dissociated I became, feeling more like the sound waves thrumming through the chandeliers overhead, both chandelier and I swaying from impact. In other words – pretty dope. Past midnight, he feigned leaving after finishing his set, walking offstage. But, at the shouting chorus of the audience, he promptly walked back. Indeed, he must’ve been so often requested post-performance that his Encore was created in direct response to more. While he is a man who is frugal in words, relying on his pieces to talk for him, and singing sparsely even in those, he is constantly in tune with his audience, piquing their interest that culminated in feet-stomping rhythms. To his music, it’s easy to let go.


Nicholas Jaar performed at UC Theatre Oct. 28-29 and is currently on tour for his album Sirens.

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