FKA twigs has been on the rise for more than a season, but that’s all it took for her to skip some rungs from Great American Music Hall in September to The Warfield last night. A diva destined to earn devotees thanks to her looks and dance moves as much as her music, twigs had the packed house squealing even before she took the stage.
She’s always been an image before an artist: As LP1’s “Video Girl” sings, she’s the girl from the video… twigs was born of the Internet, using (and manipulating) her image from behind the veil of the web. This is her first headlining tour, though she has been on tour for what seems like the entire second half of 2014, and her gaining ubiquity (is she really married to Robert Pattinson?) serves to remind that, no matter how much “true feeling” seethes from her music, the marketing is working overtime.
[jump] Twigs breathes more than sings, and dances yet better still. Every time she sashayed or twirled in time with a light change, the crowd erupted in ecstatic agony. Dressed in sheer, flowy not-tights that looked tucked into a black leather bikini bottom, some metallic armature tying her bottoms to her top, and topped in braids quick to mimic her spine, twigs cut quite a burlesque image. It felt like we were in attendance not for some new way into one of her spacey sex songs but to watch her think through the syncopation with her body.
Her body looks elastic, using the full width of the stage, her hips swirling in tight articulations until she drops into a crouch, or pops into a teapot swaying, a knee bent then straight, a cowgirl rocking folded in on beat, her thighs darting and her fists pumping, her frame bouncing or turning and bouncing then turning in equal measure — unless she’s using her taut ligature to look lock-still while isolating one joint at a time to shudder in time. It sells itself.
The truth is her music doesn’t quite translate to the stage — either as seamless replication nor as off-kilter interpretation — in the way I’d hoped. She and her band, whom she introduced near the end of the evening in a small and can’t-fight-it adorable speaking voice, have worked out a cool synth and midi drum pad system to key the sounds, pointing to her interest in every sound, including her voice, as a kind of percussion; but all the swinging limbs and drumsticks don’t hide the fact that we aren’t witness to anything organic. Or, the only thing organic is, obviously, our girl.
This is only a problem in as far as her lyrics (sex and masturbation and oral sex and bondage and distance from all that) and her evident passion for dance paint her are, however intractable from the records, window dressing on the studio product of her voice. There are a lot of backing vocals on stage that don’t seem tied to anything, almost like memories of the song in real time, both of the one we’re witness to and the one we remember from the record. It’s a strain of uber-plasticity I’m still reckoning. (Her EP2 opened with a plangent question apt here: how’s that feeeeeel…?)
Comparisons usually do a disservice to every party referenced (Sade, Portishead, Bjork, Kanye even), but if there’s a way for me to go forward with this burgeoning megawatt bulb, it’s to think of her synthesis as a kind of metabolization of pop tics, Brit glitch and r’n’b alike, beat scene trends, and that overt sexuality we can’t front on being a main draw. (Who doesn’t like to think about beautiful people making good on the horizontal desire of vertical expressions?)
The dance between object and agent is unique here, more so than with either of our Stateside divas of now (Bey and Riri, tho Riri is replicating Venus X these days, and goth’s rise is worth thinking about), for the simple fact that it’s made literal into a vocabulary of limbs that cannot be reduced to one action, one meaning, one thing; like those not-pants she wore, she’s just shy of opaque, and what would appear static is always moving.