Nahko and Medicine for the People | Electric Ballroom | 21 January 2016
Music, believe Nahko and Medicine for the People, has the power to motivate, inspire, and change. And that’s exactly what it does during the musical collective’s uplifting two-hour show at Camden’s Electric Ballroom.
It’s a party from the off, as the already energised crowd welcome frontman Nahko Bear to the stage with a chorus of “Happy birthday” and set the mood for what turns out to be more celebration than gig. Backed by a five-piece band capable of metamorphosis from Jack Johnson surfer folk to jazzy hip-hop and Dave Matthews Band jams to classic reggae, the singer launches into joyous renditions of their biggest songs.
There’s the jubilantly thought provoking ‘Vultures of Culture’ (complete with high kicks), effervescently inspirational ‘Risk It’, compelling slice of life narrative ‘7 Feathers’ (dedicated to “all the powerful mountains”), rousing ‘On The Verge’, and effortlessly optimistic ‘Nyepi’.
New song ‘Love Letters to God’, with Nahko accompanied by just his acoustic guitar and a subtle performance from Max Ribner on flugelhorn, drastically lowers the beats per minute but ratchets up the intimacy and, in the process, further strengthens the connection between performer and punter.
But it’s a sweeping, audience-embracing rendition of the sunny ‘Aloha Ke Akua’ (with its “aloha” chorus seemingly designed to induce singing along) and triumphant epic ‘Wash It Away’ that really get everyone going. And that includes the men up on stage. This being a musical collective, each gets a chance to share their talents – whether it’s the fiery solos from Ribner and guitarist Chase Makai during a Jamaican-flavoured medley (‘No Scrubs’ by way of ‘Get Up Stand Up’) or violinist Tim Snider’s use of a loop pedal to create a one-man band.
Most impressive though is Justin Chittams who steps out from behind the drums to lend his soulful voice to songs like Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ while Nahko plays along on his keyboard, sharing the spotlight with as much generosity as he’s shared the love tonight.