It’s been twenty five minutes since r&b songstress FKA twigs was scheduled to take to her first ever stage here in Melbourne and the crowd is getting restless. Having had a packed 2014, including the release of her critically acclaimed debut album LP1, there is little surprise that she is playing to a sold out room tonight. What was anticipation has bubbled over into impatience and anxiety for some of the audience. However, it seems to recycle itself at around the half hour mark. This is just as well, as this is exactly when things finally kick off. The three piece band take places before a lithe, ethereal figure follows, making the centre of the stage home.
With trance-like echoes of “I hate myself” and some very near terrifying screeching, Preface envelops the room as FKA twigs (real name: Tahliah Barnett) sets the tone for the hour-long show. Her arms snaking and hips rolling to the music; the loose white shift she wears slips from her shoulders to reveal a sequined bustier more than once before the two minute intro is over. Ache follows and makes a display of the strobe lights and twigs’ prowess as a dancer.
Lights On proves a bit of a battle as the music nearly drowns the vocals, forcing twigs to fight to be heard over the music while still maintaining the whisper-like qualities of the song. However, this struggle doesn’t last long and by the time she launches into Give Up, Barnett is in full control, providing an early-set highlight. Making use of lighting and a smoke machine, twigs doesn’t need fancy backdrops, props or projections to command the attention of the room. Her vocals –when she gets past the few minor issues with volume– and dancing both throughout and between songs is more than enough.
Between songs, twigs saunters to the very front of the stage, crouches down and wraps her arms around the security guard who has been blocking her view of the crowd. She playfully plucks his cap from his head and uses it like bait to usher him to the side of the stage so that she can better interact with her audience. Pendulum starts up with an extended introduction of creaking, popping beats before showcasing her honeyed vocals, so on point you could listen to her repeating “to be yours” for hours (pun only kind of intended.)
Video Girl is quite possibly the song that best displays everything that twigs does well. Her vocals don’t merely match those on record, but rival them. Dancing throughout in the strobe lights to full, startling effect, she pulls her bass player to centre of the stage. Watching her attack him for being a “filthy liar” was a little frightening, as the song finishes with her, on her knees, kneeling before him.
Following the carnal whispers of Kicks, we finally hear her speaking voice, almost shocking in its innocence. The transition from spitting explicit lyrics and gyrating on the floor to bashfully thanking the sold out room for turning up tonight sees the intimidating, electrifying sensuality give way to a sweet, humble and shy human being. It’s this contrast that, once she slips back into performance mode, adds to the charm of twigs’ live show.
The earlier difficulties with volume arise again briefly during Papi Pacify, but they’re much more quickly managed and by the time Two Weeks bursts forth from the stage, are a non-issue. The track which threw FKA twigs into the spotlight last year is followed by final track How’s That off 2013’s EP2.
FKA Twigs is every bit as captivating live as expected, perhaps even more so. Her outfit, her full occupation of the stage and her playfulness all illustrate that FKA twigs is performer in the truest sense of the word.
She is sincerely humble as she thanks the audience again for spending time with her, before slipping from view. There is no encore, but rather than this being a disappointment, it allows 170 Russell to spill out onto the street buzzing with excitement and giddy praise of a night well spent in the company of an artist who only looks set to enthrall and entertain for quite some time to come.