On Wednesday night’s WERS Discovery Show at Royale, British songwriter Jack Garratt brought his best efforts to the stage and showed just how much talent he had to offer. The one-man band played for just about an hour, performing 11 songs and losing his voice in the process, handling all the percussion, piano, and guitar parts by himself.
The show got started later than advertised with the local band Contact, who came on at 8:15 p.m. and only managed a 25-minute set. Overcoming early technical issues, they rebounded and the four-piece group managed a five-song set of ambient, anthemic, and hard-hitting tunes.
Garratt hit the stage right on time at 9:15 p.m. and was self-accompanied the entire way, except when joined by his guitar, which he introduced as Margaret. Building songs using samplers, synthesizers, keyboards, and at times, live percussion, there was never an idle moment on stage for Garratt. Visually as well as sonically interesting, his live persona demanded attention, despite being only one man behind a large setup of instruments.
His skills were apparent as he quickly switched from one instrument to another, often adding keyboard loops and then turning to strike his drum kit with ferocity mere moments later. “This is, legally, as much as I’m allowed to play with myself in public,” he joked.
Twice in the performance he had crew members enter the stage briefly to adjust his drum kit, and while he waited, he entertained the crowd with a circus-like theme on keyboard. Later on, he kept the crowd involved by asking them for cover song suggestions, and reacting to the uproarious response, he created a mash-up of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” which definitely served to impress.
Despite his limited mobility, he kept things moving, shaking his body to the music and at one point, letting a musical loop run while he danced at the front of the stage. Despite his keyboard prowess and bass drops, he did not let that electronic feeling dominate the performance, twice ripping instrumental solos on guitar with his back turned, evoking the same stance that the legendary Eddie Van Halen would take when soloing live.
He paid respects to another guitar legend in his second-to-last song; he told the audience that Stevie Ray Vaughn was his inspiration for learning to play guitar, and then he dedicated a blusy, Vaughn-esque instrumental to his father. By the end of the show, he expressed some remorse for all his vocal intensity, admitting that his voice had been adversely affected by it. But Garratt didn’t let that stop him from attempting the vocally delicate “Worry,” his hit song that all the fans surely paid to see.
Although he had to sing the chorus in a lower octave than the album version, Garratt’s voice recovered by the end, and also received some help from his audience, singing along loudly. In one last musical hurrah, he ripped another blues-tinged solo over the bridge section of “Worry.”
He had certainly given it his all, and with a final thank-you and a promise to return, he danced off the stage, concluding the night on a cheery note.