FKA twigs – real name Tahliah Barnett – is riding the perennial hype train. Teasing her blend of minimal R&B and Massive Attack-like atmospherics through visual EPs and a full-length (review), she’s due a homecoming having toured extensively around the globe across the last year. Heaven is the choice of venue, and the eagerness with which the crowd await their mythical chanteuse is telling.
Her entrance alone is something to behold. twigs prowls a smoky, dimly lit stage in a racy cat suit, adorned with golden chains as suspenders, snarling and purring at the crowd, almost as if she’s goading her prey. It’s a ballsy statement of intent, beckoning her transformation into a seductive siren on opener ‘Weak Spot’, a song brimming with harsh whispers backed by a relentless trippy backbeat and mechanical clangs.
The first taste of LP material arrives in the form of ‘Lights On’, a highlight featuring an intricate, arabesque dance break. twigs contorts her body like Shakira might, but with more dynamism and urgency, as if her life truly depends on it.
The set list mixes familiar EP tracks and a healthy handful of new offerings, all seamless in their exploration of reverberating bass, snares and snaps. Backed by three male musicians, twigs navigates the stage to off-kilter, cold electronics, daring the audience to look her in the eye. It should be said that she isn’t all about the histrionics. Her confessional lyricism belies a mournful nature that comes with being exposed to another through physical intimacy, never more evident than on ‘Pendulum’, on which she’s wounded by the hands of an ambivalent lover. There is, after all, a human behind the otherworldly aesthetic.
On ‘Hide’ a melodic, down-tempo number, she conveys a surprising emotional punch in her vocal runs, all the more effective against a backdrop of minimal percussion and pronounced space. Throughout the set, Barnett’s vocal flits between Aaliyah’s sugary croons, and Kate Bush’s siren-like operatic trills, possessing assured control and awareness of her own limitations.
Between songs, twigs is modest and almost child-like in her sentiments, a stark contrast to the predatory, overtly-sexual nature of her live alter-ego. Still, a conscious decision to interact less with the crowd means her performance is unremitting and relentless. It’s almost as if she’s been spurned by a lover, and the visual showcase is there for her to prove her sexual prowess against lesser competition.
Take single ‘Two Weeks’, met with a generous applause by the audience, a song that serves as a not-so-subtle parading of her feminine charms in the boudoir. She is clearly unafraid of being a purveyor of sex and ecstasy, closing the night’s proceedings with the hazy, noir-ish ‘How’s That’, By then we’re already convinced FKA twigs possesses true gravitas as a live performer. She’s no one trick pony.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain