1/30/15 – Middle East Upstairs

Imagine white, creamy milk poured slowly into a coffee, swirling its way through the dark liquid.

That’s Nick Hakim‘s voice on record; tracks like “Pour Another” have that sensuous Rhye-like quality. But live, and backed by a full band, his silky smooth vocals became upbeat, even jazzy—as if they had been jolted awake.

Hakim’s beanie-topped head and thick-lensed glasses—which he had to push back up the bridge of his nose throughout the night—didn’t quite match the suave voice on the album, but The Middle East isn’t exactly a venue for perfect, polished performances.

It wasn’t until “Cold” that he really warmed up the crowd. Whipping off his glasses, he erupted into a frenzy of dancing. As he thrashed about, the crowd clapped along, the drummer bashed his cymbals, the bassist bobbed his head to the beat, and the guitarist added a flourish of strummed notes. Hakim ran in place, let loose a deep Dracula-like laugh, and waved his limbs. He then collapsed into a heap, sitting on the stage for a moment before crawling towards the crowd on his knees, where he could sing eye-to-eye to his fans.

After the outburst that was “Cold,” Hakim wiped his lenses and put his glasses back on. It felt as if he had retreated back into his shell. On songs like “Pour Another,” the keyboard twinkled but Hakim’s voice sometimes wavered, trailing off as if humming to himself rather than singing to a packed room.

That same energy that surfaced on “Cold” occasionally slipped back into the set; sometimes it took the form of a crazed expression flashing across his face, or a yelped lyric, or another vampire-like cackle. It came back when the the smoky “I Don’t Know” lurched into a grinding guitar solo, but still, the explosive energy and spontaneity that drew whoops from fans faded in and out, as if we were tuning a car radio during a rural drive and kept getting bits of interference. The crowd clearly wanted more, but instead, was left pondering the same question Hakim posed in the aforementioned song: “Where did you go?”

Nick Hakim: Warming Cambridge With "Cold"
Pros
  • Explosive energy on "Cold"
  • Very different feel from recorded material
  • Talented musicians
Cons
  • Voice sometimes faded out
  • Climaxed early
7Overall Score

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