Joyful enthusiasm as Joji whips the Heaven crowd into a sense of collective euphoria.
It’s 8 in the evening on a Wednesday and Heaven is almost full. It’s hard to tell who is here to watch Joji
(aka George Miller
), who is here to watch Pink Guy or Filthy Frank (two of Joji’s online comic alter-ego’s), or who is here for all three. What’s certain is that they’re not here to wait. Despite doors only having opened within the last hour, the audience is clearly annoyed at the lack of any presence onstage. A sense of impatience permeates the room; a crowd used to a certain degree of intimacy and interaction with the artist and his comic alter ego doesn't want to wait too long. To pass the time phones are held aloft with meme-based messages dominating the screen in large text. It’s a room full of people communicating with others, seeing who gets it, who is in on the joke. Some can be heard quietly bemoaning the “shocking number of normies” in the crowd, all the while looking exactly like everyone else in the crowd.
At 8:35 the lights go down and the audience cheers for the inevitable presence of Joji, but it is, instead, his supporting act, Clams Casino
, who takes the stage. What follows is a selection of beats and atmospheric instrumentals playing as cloud and smoke and nature-based imagery projects onto the screen behind the DJ. It’s the kind of footage you’d expect to find in a trance or meditation video, constant slow movement through artificial images. The music is disjointed, intended perhaps to get the audience dancing and hyped up but it’s too loose and spiralling to inspire anything more than irony from them. Crowd-members whip and nae nae individually, never together, and only for seconds at a time before going back to standing completely still as they sip at their drinks and film the light show surrounding Clams Casino. As one particular track winds down the audience cheers for what they assume to be the end of his performance, but he quickly launches into another, but set-finishing, track.
The next person onstage elicits roars from the crowd, so sure are they that Joji has finally arrived – for good reason, as his album’s cover art is projected onto the screen onstage. Instead, it’s his hype man, here to pump us up and help us countdown and welcome Joji to the stage. The piano intro for “Will He” plays, and we all start to count down from “ten”. We reach “two” and the hype man stops us, some backstage issue halting Joji’s arrival, and immediately the track restarts, the countdown restarts from “five,” and this time Joji appears, elevated on a platform onstage crooning the opening lines, “I got knots all up in my chest.” The performance runs some forty minutes and spans, despite its short length, a majority of Joji’s output, though sticking largely to tracks from his recent debut album BALLADS 1
Constantly bathed in a LED-coloured haze from a smoke machine working overtime, Joji was buoyed along by the audience’s enthusiasm. A sense of joy imbued every song, regardless of its subject matter, and Joji frequently punched the microphone stand up into the air to accentuate beats and lyrics. In the background, music videos and curated footage played on the screen, with Joji at one point talking us through a photo slideshow of his time on tour. The support from the crowd was massive, with each song getting a roar of recognition, the largest reaction being reserved, however, for “TEST DRIVE,” which, live, was the most upbeat moment in the set.
Midway through the set Joji walks offstage and the stage goes dark. On the screen we watch as someone flicks through channels, settling finally on a fishing channel, and we watch an angler hook a fish. It’s a tongue-in-cheek moment from someone unable to completely distance themselves from the comedic background that first brought them an audience. We don’t care how obvious Joji may make it, however, we fall hook, line, and sinker for the bait of him walking offstage and cheer, applaud, and cry out for his return to the stage. With him comes his opening act, Clams Casino, as he launches into their collaboration track “CAN’T GET OVER YOU.” Joji runs his way through five more songs, finishing it all off with the highlight “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK” before thanking the audience, his name flashing across the screen, and the crowd started to leave.
Photo credit: Joe Dick
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