Jain’s sold out concert last night at the Fine Line Music Cafe was a playful and energetic evening led by an artist who took us on a sonic journey.
The French pop artist, on a North American tour behind her 2018 album Souldier, is known for mixing sounds from a multitude of sources — from Arabic melodies and percussion to French techno to African beats, bringing together the sounds of her childhood in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, the Congo, and France.
The show opened with Drama, consisting of Chicago-based Na’el Shehade (soundscape) and Via Rosa (vocals). Although they were a playful and rich complement to the main act, the show had a few technical interruptions that made it difficult to get into the groove of what Drama might be able to do. Shehade and Rosa are both powerhouse talents, and I will be curious to see how their sound develops in the future.
As we waited for Jain to come onstage and the venue packed in tighter it became clear that a sold-out show at the Fine Line really did feel sold out. As soon as she stepped on the stage, the fun began.
Jain doesn’t need a lot to capture your imagination. With a podium of loop controls and an armband to layer the sound, she constructs an imaginative journey right in front of you. Starting with her new popular hit, “Alright,” she got the dance party started immediately with seemingly effortless singing and her trademark global beats.
The artist’s stage presence isn’t only built on lights and show: her personable creative talents shine through. She was wearing her blue astronaut jumpsuit, and our fearless French space commander got the audience to dance to every song. The popular song “Come” from her first album (Zanaka, 2015) kept everyone moving.
She apologized halfway through the show that she hadn’t explained “the machines and stuff” that she was using, and she asked us, “Does it interest you?”
Of course it did. Take us button by button! Her care and sincerity as a performer are also appealing: you can tell that she loves the music she is making and loves to share it with her audience. “Dynabeat” and “Inspecta” were continued dance parties, and even when she dropped the electronic additions to the music and went fully acoustic with just a microphone and guitar (“Souldier”) she stayed connected with the audience the whole time. Whether it’s through the sounds or the political message in the lyrics, she finds a way to speak to the whole audience.
She ended the set with “Paris,” but without too much pause came back for an enthusiastically-demanded encore. Without a doubt the highlight was her popular “Makeba” (a tribute to the late South African musician and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba). Jain got a full call and response to cap off the evening with the hook “ooo-eee!” from the song and got everyone to sit or crouch on the ground (“I know you don’t like to!”) so she could conduct us into a full explosion of dance at the end of the song.
Expect many more sold-out shows in the future from Jain: once you hear her live, it’s hard not to fall in love with the music, as well as the artist who creates it.