w/ P. Morris
Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014
Great American Music Hall
I'm not one for predictions of fame, but any moron with an internet connection can tell you that FKA Twigs
' star is swiftly on the ascendance, and a solitary moment during last night's show at the Great American Music Hall
It was a moment, essentially, where she did nothing.
Partway through "Pendulum
," the singer writhed her arm up into the air like a cobra, arched her back, threw her head up, seized her beady eyes on a distant point and... froze. The music stopped. The sold-out crowd roared. Pose stricken, flag planted.
FKA Twigs is the stage name of Tahliah Barnett, a supremely talented new artist from the U.K. with the imagery of Aaliyah, the wardrobe of TLC, the minimalist production of mid-aughts Björk, the frenetic arm flailing of Drake and the tense vibe of Portishead. Her voice remains solely its own, as does her utterly compelling songwriting. Barnett's debut album, LP1
, was released two days ago. In the gigantic ocean that is music today, it has no close peer, and her show last night proved just as revelatory.
The delicacy of LP1
is both its asset and its liability; how, any listener would be right to wonder, could Barnett possibly bring such intimate precision to the stage? But over the course of a short, hypnotic 65-minute set last night, Barnett and her backing group recreated the music flawlessly. By the third and fourth songs, a walloping one-two of “Lights On” and the brilliant “Water Me
,” it was clear that Barnett wasn't going to miss a note all night, her voice utterly pitch-perfect even in fragile upper falsetto.
As for her music's low tones—damn, did the Great American Music Hall's subwoofers ever get a workout last night. Instead of taking the easy laptop route for the backing music, a band of three programmers played each and every sound live on drum pads or other electronic errata and, occasionally, one guitar. The very few times a hit fell off-beat only underscored the live nature of the sound, which rumbled and churned throughout the hall in a blissful gut-rattling.
Mostly operating with a guarded, don't-fuck-with-me exterior, Barnett turned humble when she addressed the crowd: “It's amazing to be here with you on the last day of my USA tour,” she said, after two songs. “I'm just a girl from Gloucestershire, which is just like any county in the U.K.” This could be schtick, but it felt real, and in such moments one could trace a genuine surprise at the devotion showered upon her music in the last two weeks.
and Barnett's live show share one thing, it is a feeling that all her songs are continuing chapters of one long thread. The crude observer dismisses this by snorting that all FKA Twigs songs sound the same, but the reality is that Barnett is operating completely within her own self-created idiom, the varied language of which becomes clear upon immersion into her world. In this, I can't help but think of LP1
's similarities to Le Fil
, a 2006 album by the French singer Camille
, which begins with one note that sustains throughout the entire album. What she does around that constant presence (“Le Fil” translates as “The Thread”) is what matters; it's no different with Barnett.
I'll leave Barnett's wardrobe, always Pinterest-worthy, to the fashion experts. But I can say that during a blistering “Two Weeks
” near the end of the set, the red silk flowed smoothly around a body necklace that shimmered against the strobe lights. Elegance and illumination: you couldn't find a better pairing for the tip that Barnett is on right now.
Set the Alarm
: If you missed the chance to get tickets for the show last night, FKA Twigs returns to San Francisco on Nov. 20 at the Regency Ballroom; tickets go on sale
this Friday at 10am.
Banish the Bro
: “We love you!” “Will you marry me?” “I love your belly necklace!”—these are all fine and innocent things shouted at Barnett last night. Then there was the dude on the side of the stage seizing any moment to repeatedly catcall “Get it, girl!,” about five or six times. Dear Bro, I hope Uber kidnaps you, drops you off in Modesto and charges you $4,867 in “surge pricing” for the one-way trip. Smooches, Me.