Nick Hakim

Nick Hakim at The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA, April 23, 2018,

May 08, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


When Green Twins came out last year, reviews spent as much time labeling Nick Hakim's debut as they did discussing the music. Let's have a go then: Hakim channels old school soul through modern psychedelically tinged elegiac folk, creating a feeling smooth on the surface and disconcerting underneath.

Whatever names are applied, it helps add a certain frisson to a live act that doesn't come so easily pigeonholed. Thus when Hakim took to the stage at the intimate Sinclair in Cambridge, MA, anything seemed possible. Then the show started and possibility melted away in a haze of interchangeably mellow numbers broken by genuinely hypnotic moments.

Dressed like a man more at home in a sports bar, Hakim stands center stage, sometimes clutching a guitar, sometimes only a mic. He's flanked by four musicians, one of whom, Jake Sherman, also served as his support act. His first song brings out his biggest asset; a voice capable of causing its own reverb.

Hakim starts with "Slowly," singing "I had a dream," and for better and worse, we're all sucked into his midnight rambling. It's a dream of fluctuating octaves, a tight rhythm section, funky guitar lines, and far too much aimless noodling.

Technical problems explain some of the early jamming, but it goes on and on, livened by detours through Green Twins that show why his debut got so many people excited.

"The Want" and "Farmissplease" have the crowd swaying along, lost to a band working together beautifully. It's when he strips it down Hakim loses it. The mellower he gets, the more it sounds the same. Only that voice holds things together.

It doesn't get better when he decides to chat to the crowd, stumbling through amiable and indistinct conversation. A D.C. native, Boston is still something like home. He studied at Berklee College of Music and references to Boston area stores he worked at draw cheers. A few jabs at the Boston Celtics are then met with the good nature he dishes them out with.

As the set continues, lows battle highs until "Cuffed." It's the effortlessly cool stand out of the night, sauntering forward on his disconnected voice and a persistent drumbeat. In that moment and as he sings, "it's a beautiful world," it's hard not to agree.

This is where a staggeringly bad encore derails everything. Having amped up the crowd before leaving the stage, Hakim returns alone to mess about on the keyboard. He seems distracted and all over the place, losing an audience who start chatting and filtering out. Voices shout song suggestions to try and get him back on track. He rolls through a couple with no precision.

It seems like he's delaying until the rest of the band come storming back to end on a high, but it turns out they're standing at the back of the room already. Hakim shuffles off. It's an odd ending to an intermittently engaging but too often disappointing show.

www.nickhakim.com

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