Last Wednesday, April 26, the Santa Barbara Bowl hosted an exceptional and rare musical talent: French Kiwi Juice, a French multi-instrumentalist, whose virtuosic performance left an unerasable mark on the audience. His live performance proved a true spectacle as the handsome, warm, foreign musician blended various genres, from jazz to electronic, into a unique and captivating sound. French Kiwi Juice, or FKJ as he is often stylized, mesmerized the audience with his exceptional musicianship and deep connection with his supporters. Those fortunate enough to witness his captivating performance were awestruck and speechless, struggling to describe the wonder and magic they had just experienced.
The performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl was a special one that became part of a rare collection of only 10 set dates featuring a full band surrounding the musician’s Coachella shows. The band included FKJ’s bassist, a guitarist, a drummer, a string trio of three incredibly talented women and a couple of special guests. The rest of the many instruments to introduce themselves throughout the night were played and looped by FKJ, which was one of the many impressive aspects of the immersive sonic landscape that evening.
Complementing the gorgeous soundtrack of the night was a stage design that took the audience right into the musician’s home studio in the Philippines, as seen in his tiny desk concert. Three large screens — separated by curtains and sandwiched between two doors — imitated windows looking out into a tropical jungle as the wind gently touched the trees and birds flew by in clusters. Instruments scattered the floor, and props and set pieces — including a vinyl player, teapot and couch — were set up to be used throughout the show.
At approximately 8 p.m., the pre-show playlist faded, and the audience cheered as it was clear FKJ was about to appear. As he walked through one of the brown wooden doors on the left side of the stage, FKJ, walked to the sound of footsteps playing throughout the speakers. The musician, clad in earthy clothing and a fuzzy bucket hat, poured himself a cup of tea and put on a vinyl record of “California Dreamin’” by José Feliciano. After walking over to the couch on the right side of the stage and lying down in relaxation, the record began to skip. Following his unsuccessful attempt to play the record without skips, FKJ turned to one of his pianos, where he would spend most of the evening. The piano riffed along with the skipping record as a glitchy Feliciano sang, “Cali- Cal- California Dream- Dreamin’.” The jam and the vintage feeling of the ‘60s song were undoubtedly cool, acting as the perfect opener for a show in an iconic California venue.
Once the lively solo jam came to an end, FKJ invited his full band (except for the strings trio) to join him on stage as they played FKJ’s smooth track titled “Skyline.” As the song shifted sounds, the “windows” behind the band began to change into that gradient sunset colors. The colors brightened the stage, and the mood in the venue was nothing but euphoric as the audience knew this would indeed be a special show. FKJ then acknowledged the venue’s beauty, introduced himself and where he came from (France) and played into the upbeat “The Mission.” “The Mission” was the first time the audience was treated to a FKJ saxophone solo, as he used it to awe the crowd and close out the song. This saxophone was used again in his next song, which is ultra-popular and often heard on TikTok: “Tadow” featuring Masego.
The visuals and sounds were consistently beautiful, and FKJ remained charismatic throughout the night, but the show truly peaked when the musician brought out June Marieezy, who goes by the stage name (((O))). The singer, who also happens to be FKJ’s wife, shared the stage effortlessly, providing her dreamy vocals for the gorgeous “Vibin’ Out” and hip-hop-influenced “Fly (FKJ Remix).” The latter was truly one of the most fun moments of the show. As (((O))) danced barefoot around the stage, her gentle yet poetic lyrical flow complimented the setting and sound of FKJ’s atmosphere perfectly. Watching the two perform together was magical, with their elegant love radiating off each other and into the audience. Then, as Marieezy waved goodbye and the audience applauded her wonderful presence, FKJ brought out his next special guest, rapper Bas to perform their song “Risk” together. Bas’s performance was upbeat and entertaining, truly a special treat for the audience who did not get to see this collaboration at one of FKJ’s Coachella shows.
The night continued with FKJ treating his fans to accompanied performances featuring a three-piece string ensemble elegantly seated on the side stage. As the show neared its end, FKJ left his band behind and invited the strings to join him on stage for a two-song encore, including “So Much to Me” and “Sundays.” The live performance of these songs was breathtaking, emotionally impacting everyone in the venue that made it an ethereal finale to a beautiful night. As the show came to a close, the palpable sense of bittersweet sadness amongst the crowd was a testament to the power of FKJ’s performance.
FKJ’s performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl was a remarkable display of virtuosic talent, genre-bending sound and profound audience engagement that left an indelible mark on everyone present. The unforgettable evening was further elevated by the immersive stage design, full band accompaniment and special guest appearances. All who had the privilege of witnessing FKJ’s exceptional performance will surely cherish the memory forever.
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