JMSN (pronounced Jameson) is the moniker of music polymath Christian Berishaj, the Detroit-raised, LA-based singer who’s currently touring Europe with the release of Velvet – his sixth studio album.
It’s JMSN’s first time performing in Ireland and before he struts on stage in a basketball jersey and sparkly flares, there’s a delicious sense of anticipation brewing in the audience. A group of twentysomethings buzzing near the stage place bets on which song he’ll open and close with, while two women beside them argue over his likeness to Justin Timberlake. One suggests he sounds like him, while the other looks horrified and insists JMSN is “much, much better.”
It would be tempting to compare JMSN to Timberlake, especially Timbaland-era Timberlake but that’s a bit of a cop out. Take that comparison and add a dash of D’Angelo, a mix of Mary J. Blige and a pinch of Prince and you’d have a better sense of his soundscape.
He can just about do it all as a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, mixer and sound engineer and he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, choosing artistic freedom over stardom. His music is released through his own label, White Room Records; he writes and produces his albums and directs the videos that accompany his songs. He’s also worked with a rake of artists from Kendrick Lamar, to Kaytranada, Freddie Gibbs, Game, J.Cole and Ab-Soul among others.
But tonight, it’s just JMSN, his bass player, drummer and an eager audience that’s probably been waiting to see him perform since the release of his critically-acclaimed debut album ‘Priscilla’ in 2012. The crowd visibly awes him.
He opens with Levy, a track from ‘Velvet’ and most people appear to know the lyrics already. In fact, throughout the entire set the audience never misses a beat, singing the lyrics to every song back at him with added gusto for Addicted, So Badly and Drinkin’. He tries to catch them out towards the end of the show with a song he claims he’s never performed before. “If we fuck up, we’re just human, not gods even though we’re so good looking,” he tells the audience in a fake Valley Girl voice, an act he dips in and out of throughout the set with the odd stream of consciousness. They don’t fuck up.
In a live setting JMSN’s songs are more seductive. The plaintive vocal of Drinkin’ feels smokey and the fuzzed-up, Prince-style guitar rhythms and vocals of Got 2 Be Erotic become, well, even more erotic. JMSN also isn’t a performer who needs to be encouraged to get his freak on. He occasionally treats the audience to hip thrusts in the style of Mick Jagger, exaggerated gyrating that sends a bolt of electricity through the audience and come-hither eyes. He gets down on his knees for slow jam, Cruel Intentions, the last song before the encore, extending the chorus with his smooth, sultry falsetto.
At the end of the show he stays back to “take photos, sign autographs and sell CDs” and the crowd takes a long time to disperse as fans wait around to get a memento. He might regret making that offer the next time he’s in Dublin because his shows are only going to get bigger from here on.