Was something wrong with the microphone? Did she lose her voice? Is this particularly involved audience throwing her off?
FKA Twigs comes out on stage at The Westway in New York City whispering “Weak Spot” over an electronic backdrop. Following a strong showing at Glasslands the night before, this is her second night in New York City. The British singer has been buzzing for the past year but after canceling her SXSW appearance, the new U.S. fans she’s earned still haven’t witnessed her live show.
These first New York City concerts can be brutal, normally filled with music journalists, bloggers, the well-connected, and the not easily impressed. It’s not uncommon to see unprepared artists perform to a room of people whose body language says, “You’re not doing very well up there. You know that, right?”
Twigs’ microphone is working fine, though. “Weak Spot” is a song that’s meant to be whispered, but it’s clear from a few confused faces in the room that not everybody knows it’s intentional. Still, Twigs’ movement is like art and it’s enough to have people captivated. Her small frame flows in and out of the shadows in deliberate motions. There’s not a trace of awkwardness. Twigs owns every inch of her body.
The Westway is a strip club-turned concert venue and the audience tonight is rowdy. Young people of all shapes and colors fill the room, and most of them look straight out of a street style portrait series you’d see in a magazine. It’s a handsome crowd, and they know it. They’re loud. They’re a little obnoxious. One guy makes an air horn sound effect with his mouth and hand. It’s pretty cool, and I’m jealous. “I should learn how to do that,” I think. Later that night, I’d try, and it would sound more like a trumpeting elephant.
About 30 seconds into the next song, “Ache,” Twigs starts to sing—like, actually sing—and the crowd cheers in approval, or in relief. From that point on, Twigs owned not only every inch of her body, but the attention of every person in the room.
By the time she gets to “Water Me,” a song that won over many early movers with a striking video, Twigs is even more comfortable. As her drummer (yes, she plays these songs with a full band) taps out the pattering sounds on a digital drum pad, Twigs jaggedly manipulates her mid-section like a plant growing in stop motion animation. Her hips snap and her muscles tighten and relax in rhythm. It’s a beautiful thing.
As the night goes on, the crowd makes their endorsement known. The air horn guy takes every chance he gets to show off his skill. At a few points, cheers like, “Twigs! Twigs! Twigs!” break out and quickly die down. At least three people shout, “I love you Twigs!”
After another of her most popular songs (with an awesome video), “Papi Pacify,” Twigs pauses to thank New York City. The crowd cheers so long that it becomes awkward. She is soft spoken and seems shy, and she waits until the clapping dies down to quietly explain how nice it is to have a room full of New Yorkers paying attention to her. She says that tomorrow she goes home to finish recording her album. “You ARE home!” the air horn guy shouts. This doesn’t really make sense, but it’s a nice gesture. “We’ve got recording studios here!” She ignores him and performs one more song: “How’s That.”
When FKA Twigs scrapped her SXSW appearance, it seemed like the move of another artist who caught buzz too quickly and wasn’t ready for the stage. But Twigs has been practicing, and it shows. She’s not just getting by, just pulling it off, or just “good for a new performer.” She’s not just dealing with being thrown into the spotlight.
Twigs is ready for the stage.