In one of the most highly anticipated and well-attended performances of Brooklyn Comes Alive 2017, members of The Motet assembled a handful of funky friends for a fantastic tribute to Jamiroquai on Sunday evening at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. With longtime aficionados Joey Porter (keyboards) and Dave Watts (drums) at the helm, the group led a spirited audience on a journey down the alleys and annals of yesteryear. Brooklyn Comes Alive’s swollen all-star band provided an authentic balance, at once true to Jamiroquai’s ethos yet adding their own personalities and flair to the timeless compositions. 

Along with Motet bandmates bassist Garrett Sayers, guitarist Ryan Jalbert, and vocalist Lyle Divinsky, Porter and Watts called upon awesome auxiliary players to round out a dynamite ensemble: the inimitable Jen Hartswick on trumpet and backup vocals, her trusty trombone foil Natalie Cressman, and RAQ/Electric Beethoven scientist Todd Stoops on another rack of synths and keyboards. BCA MVPs Maurice Brown (trumpet) and Snarky Puppy’s Nate Werth (percussion) also joined in on the funk during the hour-plus adventure. 

Jamiroquai is back in the cultural consciousness in 2017 with their tremendous new album Automaton, released in March, yet the band has not performed on U.S. soil in a dozen years. This tribute took an opportunity to focus on the halcyon days of the band from 1992-1999—a span that encompasses their four most celebrated albums: Emergency on Planet Earth (1993)Return of the Space Cowboy (1995), Travelling Without Moving (1997), and Synkronized (1999). The songwriting and instrumental performances found on these records and the resulting tours are the stuff of legend, and provided a phenomenal roadmap for these virtuosos to explore. 

Beginning with the electro-disco funk of “Cosmic Girl”, Divinsky assumed the position as Jay Kay and offered his take on the Buffalo Man’s stylish delivery, while the band cranked out the four-on-the-floor groove, setting the proverbial tone for the excursion. On the early material like “Hooked Up”, “Emergency on Planet Earth” and Jamiroquai’s 1992 debut single “When You Gonna Learn?”, the group remained faithful to the aesthetics and arrangements of the originals. Jalbert held things down with quiet storm riddims and choice voicings, while Stoops and Porter were four hands gelling swiftly, comping mightily in honor of the late, great Toby Smith. Few artists can command a stage like Hartswick, and though she was not fronting the band, her presence was felt regularly. She and Cressman added divine elements and a feminine touch that brought a diversity to the vibe and the proceedings.

On Space Cowboy’s magnificent “Light Years”, bright pianos stepped to the middle of the mix with authority, while horns took center stage with soaring brass leads and salacious swagger. The captivating conglomerate really found their footing on jams from the gazillion-selling Traveling Without Moving. On “Use the Force”, Brown stepped to the forefront and provided a thrilling trumpet solo, while Werth and Watts got busy underneath a freight train. The colossal “Virtual Insanity” saw the masterful Sayers channel Stuart Zender’s luscious lines with aplomb; all evening, the bassist did the legendary introverted virtuoso proud with nimble fretwork and a tastefully sexy attack. 

As Divinsky worked the crowd into fits of intoxication, he remarked that the band was nearly out of time, much to the chagrin of the teeming masses that were lapping up the performance. The group then rallied their way into 1999’s “Canned Heat”, a song burned into our hearts and minds forever from its classic placement in the film Napoleon Dynamite. With it’s “nothing left for me to do but DANCE” coda ringing out into the rafters, ’twas a fitting refrain and mantra for this set, for our current cultural climate, and for Brooklyn Comes Alive 2017 as it wound to a conclusion. 

Tribute To Jamiroquai “Cosmic Girl” 9.24.17 Brooklyn Comes Alive

Tribute To Jamiroquai “High Times” 9.24.17 Brooklyn Comes Alive

Tribute To Jamiroquai “Light Years” 9.24.17 Brooklyn Comes Alive

Tribute To Jamiroquai “Use The Force” 9.24.17 Brooklyn Comes Alive

Tribute To Jamiroquai “Hooked Up” 9.24.17 Brooklyn Comes Alive

Tribute To Jamiroquai “Alright” 9.24.17 Brooklyn Comes Alive

Tribute To Jamiroquai “Virtual Insanity” 9.24.17 Brooklyn Comes Alive

Tribute To Jamiroquai “Canned Heat” 9.24.17 Brooklyn Comes Alive

You can listen to the full set below, as recorded and mixed by Eric McRoberts:

Setlist: Jamiroquai Tribute | Brooklyn Comes Alive | New York City | 9.24.17

Cosmic Girl, Too Young To Die, High Times, Light Years, Use The Force *, Alright@, Hooked Up@, Virtual Insanity@, Canned Heat@

Tribute To Jamiroquai:
Dave Watts – Drums (The Motet)
Joey Porter – Keys (The Motet)
Garrett Sayers – Bass (The Motet)
Ryan Jalbert – Guitar (The Motet)
Lyle Divinsky – Vox (The Motet)
Todd Stoops – Keys (Electric Beethoven, RAQ)
Jennifer Hartswick – Trumpet / Vox (Trey Anastasio Band)
Natalie Cressman – Trombone – Vox (Trey Anastasio Band)

* w/ Maurice “Mobetta” Brown – Trumpet
@ w/ Nate Werth – Percussion (Snarky Puppy)

[Photo: Mark Millman]