Tahliah Debrett Barnett is 27 years old (though her impish nature suggests otherwise), creates stunning, artistically aware RnB under the guise FKA Twigs, and has just brought the Roundhouse to its jaw-dropped knees. It’s the second date of her sell out stint at Camden’s iconic venue, bearing a stage that has in recent years welcomed artists like Lady Gaga, so it really couldn’t be more of an apt setting for tonight. Merging a white gowned violinist, breathtakingly stunning dance choreography, a revolving turntable in the middle of the stage and a consistently enthralling light show – tonight was as much of an art performance as it was a live show.
In stage outfits tailor made by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and a show including dancers she found busking on the street, to say FKA Twigs absorbs every facet of her art would be an understatement. From the moment “Preface” lights up the stage, showing Twigs, tiny in stature, surrounded by hooded figures carrying flickering candles, the audience’s hushed tone is set throughout.
Tonight’s theme is Congregata, a theatrical “coming together”, and more importantly it’s a show that abandons all the regular rules of a normal live performance. Focusing less on churning out song after song, Twigs’ music is chopped up and dissected throughout her two hour set – huge chunks of the show are dedicated to her mesmerising dance routines and despite her disparaging comments towards her previous profession, it seems that dance remains a huge part of her life. The outfits range from a black leather leotard paired with thigh high leather boots, a flowing white kimono and a tassled pair of hot pants, each of them accentuating her sculpted body. She looks sexy yet vulnerable yet menacing – a mirage of a woman.
The production is stellar, as every crack of the synth and every shudder of the bass is felt throughout the Roundhouse. Every song is greeted rapturously, especially “Two Weeks” and “Pendulum”, and there’s even more fervour when she breaks into a snippet of Madonna’s “Vogue”, including dance routine to match. Vocally, she sounds just as hypnotic live as she does on her debut record, LP1. Her high-pitched, girlish vocals cut through the air leaving the audience mesmerised, most notably on the final acapella verse of “Lights On”, but she can easily switch to a demonic, voice manipulated growl in an instant.
As the lights go up and her idle figure stands alone on the stage, she giggles nervously into the microphone, a complete world away from her ferocious persona. She walks around the space like a little girl lost, mumbling shyly, even at one point admitting – “I’m so bad at talking”. This can only make people love her more. It can only add to the notion of her as an enigma and it certainly doesn’t play down the fact that she’s a sensual, ambitious woman; if anything, it heightens it.
The most provocative aspect of her performance wasn’t the erotic dancing or the binding leather but the fact that this was all a single vision from one woman. She made this happen. She was the one in control of every element of her artistry and the show. By her laying everything bare, it allowed us to capture a snippet of FKA Twigs’ unique world – a privilege to watch.
Written by Harley Cassidy