Connan Mockasin kicks off tour with playful soul at the Rickshaw

Connan Mockasin at the Rickshaw Theatre, 6/12/19

Monster Children

Wednesday night saw New Zealander Connan Hosford, who performs under the stage name Connan Mockasin, played a packed show at the Rickshaw Theatre. This was the second stop in the North American leg of a tour promoting his new album Jassbusters. Mockasin currently lives in Tokyo with his partner and young daughter, and Vancouver listeners were understandably excited about an inclusion in a relatively brief tour.

After a beautiful solo keyboard set by Lia Ices, who warmed up the room with quivering indie-folk vocal compositions, the Wednesday night crowd became restless in the hot theatre, where one could see Mockasin, clad in an emerald shirt and matching bell-bottoms, hidden under a bucket hat, stepping out front to chat with concert goers on East Hastings Street.

With a sparse stage set up, Mockasin began the set in a chair, bucket hat still on. His three-piece band accompanied him in playing some of his more moody, lo-fi songs, “Its Your Body 1,” “Charlottes Thong,” and “Faking Jazz Together,” showing early on that the set would traverse his three major albums.

Mockasin, from the start, demanded admiration and offered supplication, twirling his finger in the air to get reactions from the crowd while bowing and twisting his guitar riffs around each band member, anxious to get the energy levels high.

Mockasin’s falsetto, which sometimes evokes Prince, Brian Wilson and 80s/90s R&B, brought the evening to the desired level with “It’s Choade My Dear.” Obeying his own pleading lyrics (“please take it off”), Mockasin performed an on-stage costume change. He moved about the stage—sitting on his chair, perching on the edge of the stage, wandering over to his other band mates—as if he was somewhere increasingly intimate. Mockasin is known for recording whole albums in hotel rooms, and his casual, playful manner on stage recalls that improvisational spirit.

His fluttering guitar solos and washed out psychedelic accompaniment kept a similar tone throughout the show, never changing instruments or settings, while maintaining an entertaining range. In the middle of songs, the band would move from improvisation into covers such as “True” by Spandeau Ballet. During “Sexy Man” from Jassbusters, Mockasin turned to keyboardist John Carrol Kirby, known for his work with Blood Orange and Solange, to sing a Whitney Houston ballad.

Throughout the set, his vocals would break into grunts and cries that tracked the intensity of the sensuous music. Mockasin in known to be theatrical. He even released a film, Bostyn’n Dobsyn, to accompany Jassbusters—a film he has said is based on concepts from his earlier days growing up in New Zealand, following concepts developed with a lifelong friend..

On theme with Canada’s recent decision to end dolphin captivity, Mockasin performed “Forever Dolphin Love” from the eponymous album. Folding and weaving the nearly 10 minute studio track, Mockasin began in the middle, faked an ending, then went into the middle again, spreading the song out in improvisational relish.

The crowd was pleased. A wonderfully chaotic mid-set started to vibrate back to attention with the band playing “Con Conn was Impatient” and the hit “I’m The Man, That Will Find You,” taking a break mid-song to cover “Dilemma” by Nelly and Kelly Rowland.

Many people in the crowd were anxious to hear a track from Soft Hair, a collaboration album with LA Priest, and they got what they wanted—Mockasin played “Lying Has to Stop” during the encore.

All in all, Mockasin put on an engaging show, demonstrating that his albums go beyond formulaic lo-fi pop.