On Sunday 3rd December 2017, Jordan Mackampa performed an intimate gig at the Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham as part of a national tour.
We were invited to attend and review the event, and whilst I would normally research a little about the musician beforehand, on this occasion I arrived with companion completely oblivious to what Jordan Mackampa was about.
The Sunflower Lounge is a well established music venue, cool bar upstairs, small stage and bar downstairs – you get the feeling you could be in some grungy club in Seattle or San Francisco which I love about this place.
Supporting Jordan at his Brum gig were The Tin Pigeons, who played vigorously and with elements of folk and pop rolled into one. The lead singer reminded me of Mickey Delany from the Monkeys both in actions and his voice, is that a bad thing? I am not sure, but the packed room seemed to approve, with a rapturous applause after each song. Whilst this isn’t my personal taste in music, I did see similarities in bands such as Mumford and Sons, whom I once met in a bar in St Ives and shared an ice-cream with.
Next on stage was Jordan. I assumed his style would be in a similar indie, folky pop style to the support, but this proved not to be the case.
Joining Jordan on stage was a band of musicians who all appeared competent and looked the part. However, their first song didn’t quite gell and I wondered if they had not had time to rehearse it before the gig. I reserved judgment as, so often, the best musicians, can start weak, yet once they find their stride tend to blow away any nerves and can completely tear apart any venue/audience.
In this instance I was right to reserve judgment, because the band grew taller, stronger, with every track. Hitting a groove on several occasions, always tied together by Jordan’s unique, incredibly soulful tones. His voice is powerful, smooth, yet controlled, and the high notes are reached easily. He is a unique singer and masters the guitar beautifully on stage.
The band left the stage for a while which left Jordan alone on stage to craft more of his solo work. Whilst this was some of his best material, it would have been nice to see the band remain on stage so as not to disrupt the flow of Jordan. I could hear soft jazz and soul similarities with Gregory Porter and Michael Kiwanuka.
Jordan was born in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo), grew up in London and became an artist in Coventry, so his ties to the West Midlands are strong, this comes across in some of the banter between band members on stage. We spoke to Jordan after the show and band members were friends first, which shows in how they interact comfortably on stage.
You can see Mackampa handles emotions well but the songs are powerfully, tugging at the audience’s heart strings, stealing them away on his journey..
Songs that stood out were those with feeling, and a meaning which Jordan shares with the audience, one about his mother, another about being there for someone he lost. You can see Mackampa handles emotions well but the songs are powerfully, tugging at the audience’s heart strings, stealing them away on his journey – apart from a few irritating rude people at the back, who seemed to think they could just chat loudly through acoustic songs (I think one was a band member of the Tin Pigeons chatting someone up).
It felt like we were witnessing something truly unique with Jordan, and he admitted after the gig, it was his favourite performance in Brum yet. Well I guarantee, the next time you see him it’ll be supporting someone big, or he’ll be headlining one of the larger venues. This guy has incredible talent, as does his band, I would see him again, and have enjoyed listening to the CDs I bought at the gig. Huge respect to Jordan Mackampa and his band. We will meet again!
Review by Ollie ‘Yardbird‘ Lloyd for Grapevine Birmingham