Tablet Life & Arts

Review: FKA twigs at Trees

Over and over again Friday night, Trees was suffused with a feeling of suspension.

Given the tryptophan-laced gorging of just one day prior, such a sensation felt altogether apt.

The air was thick with anticipation, a sold out crowd restless as they waited for FKA twigs to take the stage.

A blue glow bathed the room, bearing an almost palpable weight as the hunger to see the woman born Tahliah Barnett intensified with every passing moment.

Then, suddenly, she emerged to a deafening roar, trailing three band members behind her, and plunged into her scant catalog, jerking and twitching about the stage.

The 26-year-old Brit has set critics’ heads spinning with her atmospheric debut, LP1, and the frenzy comes into focus somewhat once you see Barnett in action.

She’s juggling several things at once, not least of which is a kind of laid-back feminism — the lyrics to Kicks, for instance, obliquely extol the virtues of self-pleasure — but Barnett’s also willing to kneel before her male bassist, as she did in a charged moment at the climax of Video Girl.

It’s a fascinating dichotomy, one suggesting Barnett alone decides how to share herself, and no amount of screaming fans will sway her otherwise.

In an era when many rising female pop stars sacrifice whatever is necessary to remain in the conversation, Barnett’s diffidence is striking — and encouraging.

Barnett frequently stared down the phalanx of smartphones raised before her as if she meant to evaporate them with her gaze.

The crush of attention Barnett has endured thus far ( her high-profile romance with actor Robert Pattinson only ratchets up the intrigue) seems to roll off the singer-songwriter’s back like so much water.

Her songs — a delicate fusion of hip-hop, R&B and pop which comes off like a collection of records left too long on the radiator, melted and misshapen into something fascinating — are brooding and intense, raw-nerved explorations of love and lust (“When I trust you we can do it with the lights on,” Barnett coos in Lights On, an austere compliment to the sensitive likes of Drake).

There were moments during FKA twigs’ (her stage name supposedly derives from the cracking sound her joints make) roughly hour-long performance when she held all eyes, and others when she drifted back into the thick smoke onstage, the only evidence of her existence being her breathy soprano wrapped around the meaty bass shaking eyeballs in sockets.

Visible or not, the idea of FKA twigs — that of a soft-spoken, intensely focused musician, conjuring a very specific mood — was more than enough to fill the room, leaving everyone floating, blissfully sated.

Opener Boots, best known as one of the key collaborators on Beyonce’s 2013 iTunes surprise, offered up a terse, 30-minute opening set that was as commanding as the headliner’s.

Full of thick, heavy, loud songs — reminiscent of Prince, absent all the affectations — Boots’ music matched an observation he shared midway through his time on stage: “When everything goes up, it’s going to be on fire.”

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