Review: FKA Twigs at Hackney Empire (08/10/2014)

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FKA Twigs began her first UK headline tour on 2nd October in Brighton, but, at her biggest headline show to date, did she impress the crowd at Hackney Empire with her Mercury Prize nominated debut record? To answer this in one word: absolutely.

The venue took a while to fill, and for a sell-out night at the Empire, this was concerning in the early stages of the night. There was no need to panic however as, when FKA Twigs took to the stage at roughly 9:30am, the 1200+ capacity venue was full and ready to be impressed from the stalls to the gallery.

The dark, moody lighting on stage set the perfect ambiance for FKA Twigs to showcase her debut record LP1. Stylishly lit with oversized light bulbs, her three piece band were surrounding by synths and electric drum machines; a good sign that Twigs wasn’t simply going to sing along to a backing track, but instead showcase the in vogue sparse R’n’B that got her recognised. Tahliah Bennett, the women behind FKA Twigs, is a master of her own artistic direction as she has plays a huge part in every aspect of her output, whether that is producing her own music videos or choreographing a stunning dance routine to go with her performance at the Hackney Empire, all elements are clearly routed with the artist. If Twigs was simply standing on the stage and singing her tracks, the night would have been 100% less effective. The whole performance element was emphasised as she twisted and turned on stage in between her beautiful falsetto vocals.

She strutted onto the stage and performed the operatic ‘Preface’; the ethereal opener of her debut record. Without saying a word to the crowd she worked her way through the record. However, there was one very important moment that emphasised how much Twigs was in complete control of the show. As soon as the paparazzi had left (after the third song), she exited the stage to strip down to a black leotard and fishnet tights. The timing was blatant; it was almost a big ‘fuck you’ to the photographers desperate for a shot of her to photoshop in with Robert Pattinson or some other bullshit Daily Mail article. It made me appreciate her a whole lot more knowing that she was in complete control of her own performance.

Her performance of tracks such as ‘Lights On’ and ‘Hours’ were smoulderingly sexy with Twigs’ eccentric body jerks working in perfect time with the trademark clicks on her tracks. A particular highlight of the set was when she bought out a spectacularly fierce male dancer to accompany her on the routine. The story-telling element, in the way they moved together, matched the tracks message, highlighting yet again, how much thought goes into every single aspect of FKA Twigs as a package. Tracks such as ‘Water Me’, ‘Papi Pacify’ and perhaps her most well known track ‘Two Weeks’ were emphasised in the live setting in a way I hadn’t previously envisage. Twigs’ stage presence lifts these songs into a whole new realm and they are not merely tracks on a record – they are full fledged performance pieces, and I truly hope this element of her live shows never changes and she keeps executing how multi-faceted her talent is.

In a brief moment of interaction with the crowd, Tahliah thanked everyone for coming and revealed how special the show was due to her living just around the corner from the Hackney Empire. I thought this moment of gratitude would shatter the exuberant persona she is on stage, however, it almost emphasised it. To be humble and then switch instantly back into her seducing performance was enchanting. If you get to see FKA Twigs, snap up the opportunity, it was far more than just a music gig, it was theatrical, impressive and most of all, smoulderingly sexy.

 

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I’m Megan Downing, an English Literature graduate from University of Southampton. I am the Music, Arts and Culture Editor for The National Student. I am the Membership and Communications Officer for the Student Publication Association, I write about music for 7BitArcade, and contribute regularly to The Culture Trip. I have a passion for live music and this is where I began in student journalism. Reviewing a gig or festival is still where my heart lies four years on. I will be starting at MTV as a News Intern in June 2015. One thing you should know about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Spacey.

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