Video Savant: Jamie Lidell's “The City” (Live)

Here we find rising UK soul superstar Jamie Lidell shortly before he dropped his 2005 breakthrough album Multiply. At this 2004 show in London, Lidell is in full-on experimental beatboxing mode. Creating rhythms and textures with his looped, extraordinarily supple vocal cords run through mysterious little boxes and Cycling '74 software, Lidell weaves complex matrices of tics, shticks, moans, wails, hiccups and gasps. The result is some of the funkiest glossolalia ever to ricochet around a venue. He turns that cavity in his head into one of the most mind-boggling percussion instruments I've ever heard.

I had the good fortune to catch Lidell's festival-climaxing set at the 2004 Mutek in Montreal. There he also donned a suit of jumbled recording tape and a race-car helmet, a subtle mockery of Vegas-y glam and glitter. The video below gives you an idea of the vocal acrobatics Jamie flexed at Mutek, a gig that blew my mind 17 ways to Sunday.

That athletic display is a long way from the throwback soul conventionality Lidell's pushing on his new full-length, Jim (Warp). One suspects that he'll be in a jus'-regular-folks Jim state of mind for his upcoming date at LA's El Rey Theatre May 29. I for one hope Lidell's recent fondness for trad-soul songwriting (as Redding/Green/Wonder accomplished as it is) subsides and he returns to the innovative voice contortions of life B.J. (Before Jim).

“The City” live at London's Royal Festival Hall


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