Like the vestal virgin combined with voodoo priestess approaching the altar for sacrifice, FKA Twigs emerged from the dry-ice infested shadows on the stage of the Trinity Centre in Bristol last night to deliver the final show of her UK headline tour. Whilst uncannily referencing the Trinity Centre’s status as a converted church, Twigs built crowd anticipation with a five-minute introduction comprising waves of synthetic choral voices triggered by her three band members/drones. When she finally appeared on stage it was to a roar of unfaltering admiration from this small crowd of no more than 200.
Dressed in a dancer’s leotard, a throwback to her days as one of the most in-demand video girls for the likes of Jessie J and Kylie Minogue, her presence was commanding and slightly intimidating. Much has been made of Twigs’ manifest sexuality and its perception (mainly by male critics) as the thematic core of her music and live shows. Her presence and physicality plays with this concept, creating a pervading live atmosphere that is heady and enticing.
Throughout the course of her relatively short 75 minute set, she managed to perfect the dynamic between intimacy and unattainable distance, and it is this collision and relationship of opposites that characterises Twigs’ sound. Generic planes rub against each other and break off into fragments of synthesised sounds and shards of chopped electronic drum patterns whilst Twigs’ angelic falsetto gently floats over the chaos and provides hook after hook which relentlessly pull you into each song despite a reflexive resistance. See the subterranean bass-rolls on “Video Girl” tensely propped up by a rattling, industrial mix of bass drums and truncated snare sounds and then contrast this with the quiet beauty of “Closer” which provides a slow-moving narrative of isolation, redemption and love. Twigs and her cohort of talented producers certainly know how to make music sonically, generically and intellectually interesting. This is all great news for listening to the album in private, but when experienced live an additional element is added to the mix. This element is Twigs’ inherent command of her physicality and body. Throughout the show, in which she and her band, accompanied by an excellent interplay of lighting effects, ran through a smattering of tracks from her debut album LP1 and from her EPs, gradually building in tempo and intensity before finishing on a run of the grimey “How’s That” and the sinister “Papi Pacify”, she would periodically erupt into pulsations that mirrored the energy of the songs. Her movements contrasted the dull, saccharine choreography of so many music videos (see Nicki Minaj and J Lo’s “duet” “Booty”), and instead gave dance its rightful place on an equal plane with the music. At points it seemed synesthetic and for the entirety it was captivating.
A woman of few words, Twigs’ shyness was endearing and when she did speak with the audience it seemed a heartfelt appreciation of our support at this (almost) homecoming gig so near her birthplace of Gloucestershire. In reference to the current media frenzy over her relationship with Robert Pattinson, she also delivered a parable on the dangers of gossip while her band were attending to technical difficulties, and revealed that behind her shyness is an undercurrent of strength and an acceptance of reality. My only qualm with her live performance was a purely practical concern that the sound system at the venue struggled to provide enough volume or bass to allow the audience to experience the dynamic nuances of songs and feel the weight of their danceable hooks, resulting in an audience that struggled to keep up Twigs’ movements and whose conversations could often be heard over the more tender moments in the set. Twigs, however, is still a captivating performer, providing authenticity of feeling in her music and flawless voice.
[This piece was originally published on Cherry Coloured Funk on 11/10/14]