In 2016 I told someone I thought Mike Posner’s I Took A Pill In Ibiza (Seeb Remix) was my top contender for song of the year and he dismissed it, I’m guessing, because he heard the dance remix and decided that anything that played in a club couldn’t possibly have enough heft to be considered a real song, much less the best of the year. His loss. Ibiza – the remixed version – which exploded on the charts last year could have taken him down a very satisfactory rabbit hole of discovery. First to the guitar-and-voice original which packs as much energy as the dance version even without the exuberant glitchy vocal sample, and then to an entire album’s worth of rock solid, whip smart songs that indicate a singer/songwriter in complete control of his craft.
Which brings us to the acoustic gig that Posner played in Mumbai on the 26th of January. The setting – large for a restaurant, small for a music venue – was bare-bones. A white backdrop, elevated mini-stage and… that’s about it. The place was packed, service was suspended for the duration of the show and when Posner finally came on, it was a revelation. First, the shock of electric green hair. He sat down at a keyboard, surveyed the excited audience and said firmly, “Shhhh.” Then he began to play. There was silence as the crowd hung on to every word, broken only by them singing along to the words they knew. Posner opened with the decidedly sombre Buried In Detroit – a song about how all this world-travelling, global-living business is good, but eventually your hometown is where you’re at. In his case, Detroit, where he will be, you know…it’s in the title of the song. He’s so crafty with words he infuses the song with details that just have to make you chuckle, “I like my songs how I like my women / Honest and to the point.” That’s a great line.
He played the songs, the people listened. It was fascinating. I haven’t seen such rapt attention at a live event in a while. It was so riveting, I wanted to smack the couple who came in late and began to talk loudly next to me. I settled for a few dirty looks because I didn’t want to get into it and miss what was going on on stage. And there was a lot going on. You’d think a ‘one man and his guitar (plus friend on keyboard)’ gig with all that introspection would get old quick but Posner is no wallflower on stage and the way he conducted each song was energetic and inclusive of the crowd.
There were the hits (Be As You Are, Not That Simple) that the crowd absolutely lapped up, and two new songs (Hold Me Closely, Mercy Me) that they began singing along to as they got familiar with the chorus. That’s rare.
When everyone was comfortable with everyone he did the unthinkable – asked people to lower their smart phones for the duration of one song. Just one. There were laughs, as if he was kidding, but Posner means business. He gamely agreed to pose for everyone’s pictures for a minute but after that, just for one song, it was no phones. Then the lights went right down and he did a spoken-word piece called Gratitude that was part reflection, part dig at non-believers, part skill and all raw emotion. If until this point you’d thought he was good with words, with the music stripped away all together, it became clear that the music was in the words itself, the instrumentation just an added bonus.
Posner is such a showman that the lack of infrastructure to facilitate an encore (no backstage area) didn’t mean he was going to go without one. He asked for it anyway and proceeded to “soak it in” as the thoroughly satisfied crowd cheered and whistled, waiting for the inevitable. The big hit of last year. When the song began it was all crowd all the way. I had to strain to hear what Posner’s voice sounded like, singing the song in person. That’s what I wanted to hear. Not my own voice singing along which I’d heard a zillion times at home, heck I’d even put a cover video of it online and I hate being in videos.
The song ended, Posner took a bow and he was gone. We walked out, brain buzzing from how good that was. As we were getting into a cab about ten minutes later on the other side of the venue I saw a car pull up and a flash of green out of the corner of my eye. It was Posner and his team, getting out and walking to someplace. We were literally half in the cab, half out and I wanted to shout out to him about how good the gig was and maybe ask to take his picture but I didn’t. I regret that now but it’s cool. The hope is he’ll be back for another gig and we’ll go again because the man sure knows how to write a song.