Review: ‘Jamiroquai’

Britney Spears and her sisters may fill a niche in the hearts of youngsters who crave light, fluffy entertainment -- but adults with a taste for cotton candy generally have a lot less luck satisfying that sweet tooth, particularly if they want to retain a degree of perceived hipness.

Britney Spears and her sisters may fill a niche in the hearts of youngsters who crave light, fluffy entertainment — but adults with a taste for cotton candy generally have a lot less luck satisfying that sweet tooth, particularly if they want to retain a degree of perceived hipness. Jason Kay and his oddly named soul-pop contingent rode into that void several years back, floppy hats and shimmering riffs flowing, and they seem to have no intention of moving on — much to the delight of the sold-out house at this, Jamiroquai’s only Stateside show of 2001.

Mindless fun and PG-13 hedonism was the order of the day during the band’s 90-minute set, which drew heavily on the just-released Epic album “A Funk Odyssey.” Truth be told, only a few of the numbers performed truly gave up the funk in a down and dirty sense: Mostly, Jamiroquai trafficked in a glossy brand of Eurodisco, best captured in a swirling cover of Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls.”

While his bandmates slinked and slithered through brisk, breezy grooves, Kay let his freak flag fly, slapping on an odd metal headdress reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty’s crown and bopping around the stage in an aerobic frenzy. All the sound and fury would have amounted to little, however, if not for Kay’s often extraordinary singing voice.

Sometimes buried in the mix, Kay’s liquid tenor — often compared to that of Stevie Wonder –soared high on high-energy renditions of “Little L” and the band’s 1998 hit “Virtual Insanity.” He slipped into coquette mode for the teasing “Love Foolosophy,” which rode a tinkling keyboard riff back to the halcyon days of Material Girl-era Madonna.

Some of Jamiroquai’s rougher edges (which, truth be told, were never all that rough to begin with) have been buffed away. The rock guitar that often spiced earlier perfs was noticeably absent, as was the didgeridoo playing that provided a bit of hippie-ish color.

But rather than leave listeners wondering about what’s missing, Kay and his bandmates — much like “Naked Chef” Jamie Oliver — have found a way to make their confections tantalize despite their simplicity.

Jamiroquai

Hammerstein Ballroom; 3,300 capacity; $35

Production

Presented by Giant Step. Reviewed Sept. 10, 2001.

Cast

Musicians: Jason Kay, Simon Katz, Toby Smith, Derrick McKenzie, Sola Akingbola.
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