Devotees of iamamiwhoami will be familiar with the huge cube that dominates the stage at Electric Brixton. For the unenlightened, it’s a recurring motif in the videos on which Jonna Lee’s mystique is built - short, art pieces that developed into full-length songs and gradually revealed the artist’s identity.
Tonight, the cube is illuminated white, pulsing gently and prompting the question of whether Lee will suddenly erupt from it, as if from a birthday cake.
Sadly this doesn’t happen, and Lee makes a far more dignified entrance from the side, dressed in an all-in-one black catsuit, waist-length blonde hair loose, and with not a trace of the macabre get-ups which feature in many of the video pieces.
Silhouetted against the light from the cube, she raises her arms above her head in prayer position like some latter-day goddess of electronica. By the reaction of the crowd, it’s clear that they’re already signed and sealed worshippers.
As the undulating synths of 'o' ripple across the stage, it’s clear that Lee doesn’t need elaborate costumes to create a stunning visual effect – nor does the lack of video detract from what are paint-strippingly good tracks. A live drummer and backing vocalist supply an element of drama and immediacy, while a small fleet of keyboards and computers provide the rest of the audio.
Lee’s vocal, although largely distorted, is clearly more than capable of standing up to the live and electronic wizardry around her.
The crystal-cut marching beat and eerie melody of ‘good worker’, taken from last year’s album 'kin', ramps things up a notch, and Lee starts throwing the kind of shapes Kate Bush would be proud of. Also from 'kin' is ‘in due order’, a killer track with a sludgy, robotic riff which prompts Lee to march around the stage, pausing only to accept a tinfoil crown from a delirious member of the audience.
Naturally, everyone is waiting for the appearance of the giant yeti costume, a wish that is fulfilled just a few tracks in. As Lee spins round and round, hair and fur flying wildly, a thousand smartphone cameras flash, capturing an image that probably hasn’t been replicated at that many gigs before.
In videos, Lee may be a remote, carnivalesque entity, but in live performance there is a genuine and warm connection with the audience. She frequently holds hands with the front row and descends into the masses to allow herself to be hugged.
iamamiwhoami’s live performance may be stylistically very minimal, but striking visual effects are achieved using simple techniques – at one point a red wash descends on the stage to be replaced by green. It is Lee, however, who is utterly magnetic and, perhaps surprisingly, quite unaffected as she dances around like you do in front of your bedroom mirror when you think no-one’s watching.
Even after everyone has departed the stage and the lights in the huge cube go out, the audience stands clapping and stamping their feet for at least 15 minutes. There’s some confusion as to whether the show is actually over – or that could just be the optimism of an adoring crowd of disciples ready to worship again.
Words: Theresa Heath
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