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UD Low Down: Jelani Blackman @ EartH Theatre, Hackney

Writer and DJ, Maria Hanlon, kicked off her February at Jelani Blackman’s sold out show at EartH Theatre in Hackney, last Friday night. A stunning tiered seated venue, built originally as a cinema in the 1930s, it retains its original Art Deco features and stunning acoustics…

Jelani Blackman is one of the most exciting artists on the scene right now so it was no surprise that the first show of his ‘The Heart of It’ tour sold out! I was planning on going to the show, but when my friend Bushrod, who was supporting Jelani that evening asked me to DJ for him, I of course said yes!

Bushrod and I arrived at the Theatre for sound check and I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was. If you haven’t been before, it’s a 680 capacity tiered seated venue with stunning original Art Deco features. As we walked into the space, we saw Jelani playing the saxophone for the last part of his soundcheck which sounded incredible.

Then it was our turn: Bushrod and I got on stage for his sound check which went really well. I’ve played for Bushrod a couple of times before and we’ve been pals since uni so I love DJing for him and seeing him shine. We also managed to catch the first part of Areej, the other support act’s sound check which sounded amazing. Then we all headed backstage until showtime.

As the theatre filled up Areej kicked off the night and we could hear the almighty applause she got as we waited eagerly backstage. Then it was Bushrod’s turn, I stepped behind the decks as he started his set with a brand new unreleased hip-hop bop, ‘Stussy On My Back’ which went down an absolute treat. He then performed ‘Doing Ok’ and ‘Overtime’ from his previous albums before another unreleased gem ‘Painforest’. He then moved onto a few other favourites and got the crowd waving their arms in the air and singing the lyrics back. We came off stage and took our seats as Jelani was up next. 

Jelani began the show playing the saxophone centre stage with his new band, Elijah on the electric guitar to the left, and Donovan Gervais on the keys to the right. He then began to perform some of the tracks from his new album including the stunning ‘Damage’, ‘Rise’ with Biig Piig who joined him on stage (magical), ‘Feel The Same’, one of my personal faves, and ‘Voice’ with Bob Vylan, who also made an appearance. Jelani invited the crowd closer so everyone rushed down from the tiered seats right to the front to get involved as he went on to perform fan favourites such as ‘Hello’

He took us on a musical journey through the album, bringing up the tempo and then slowing it back down, showing us he can do it all. As the evening came to an end, Jelani thanked the crowd and walked off stage but was met with a roaring ‘one more song’ chant, and he delivered. He came back on to perform ‘Izit’ one more time and got in the crowd and took some videos on people’s phones. The energy was sky high and it was the perfect way to end the night.

The way he began the show stripped back, playing the saxophone alone and ended it in the crowd surrounded by his fans was a real contrast. It demonstrates how versatile and talented Jelani Blackman really is, providing a song for each of us and a memorable evening for all of us. 

Catch Jelani Blackman on tour this February here.
Listen to ‘The Heart of It‘ below.

Words: Maria Hanlon @mariahanlon

Listen to The Voices Breakfast Show with Maria Hanlon on the 1st Friday of the month 9-11am on voicesradio.co.uk.

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