Reviewed onFriday March 17

The Friday night atmosphere at Oxford Art Factory felt a world away from its pre-midnight, dull and rain-soaked Sydney setting. It started with a mellow and bubbly crowd filling out while Sampology live-sampled and built a groove for the headliner to launch from. The room was eager, best represented by a sole crowd member sashaying with flair, translating exactly how solid Sampology’s beats were with every bold and sublime pop of his hips and arms. Spontaneous moments like these would continue across the evening.

Dressed nonchalantly in a button-down and flat peak cap, the huge talent that is Jordan Rakei took to his keys. Cloak, Rakei’s soulful debut album, was ostensibly the reason we’d gathered, but the artist chose a mix of his more energetic cuts from the album and past EPs to elevate on the audience’s vigour. Joined by his band, Rakei kept his eyes closed almost throughout the first two tracks, while the audience fervently echoed the lyrics “Shout it like a stereo” from early single ‘A Tribe Called Government’ prompt-free.

Rakei opened his eyes as we looked over at the conspicuously positioned microphone stand to his right, teasing the arrival of MC Remi on Cloak cut ‘Snitch’. Were the collaborators going to be reunited to perform their two tracks (Rakei features on Remi’s ‘Lose Sleep’) together? Would Ngaiire, Rakei’s other notable Australian cameo on Cloak, also take to OAF to manifest their song IRL? As it turned out, the night was to be all about Rakei alone, but we neither suffered nor lamented over the lack of musical guests.

Not only was his voice – oh, that voice – as soothing and impressive as ever, Rakei’s band of James Rudolph on bass, Sheldon Agwu on guitar and Jim Macrae on drums were an agile and strong backbone for a set that wove through a range of textures and volumes. An atmospheric live take on ‘Still (Interlude)’ didn’t garner complete silence as requested, but the work of all onstage consumed those who paid attention, creating sunshine among the shadows.

With its lyrics “I can see the darkness of the night / I can feel the rain fall down”, ‘Lost Myself’ felt like the most apt ending to Rakei’s biggest headline show thus far. But an encore with Latin-infused single ‘Talk To Me’ coming to a close via Rakei’s final words, “Better than I was before / Oh, I’m riding high,” said it all.

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