Now Wave have a reputation for booking acts who exist just on the verge of becoming household names, and their prescience was evident again in catching FKA Twigs in Manchester during her album tour. As far as settings go, the all seater auditorium at the Royal Northern College of Music seemed a strange booking for the Sounds of the Near Future bosses, but in reality it proved almost perfect.
Arriving early to settle down in time for Visionist’s support slot, it was pretty bizarre to hear Lil B played over the PA in a venue with an orchestra pit, and even weirder to be sat in a cushioned fold down chair watching one of the grime scene’s rising stars behind a pair of CDJs, playing tunes that would likely offend many of the hall’s previous performers and guests. I doubt one of Louis Carnell’s sets has ever inspired so much relaxed head-nodding and foot tapping in a crowd, and it seems unlikely that so many middle aged men and women in smart casual attire have found themselves being subjected to Bloom’s ‘Juniper’ at half past 8 on Saturday night before. Nevertheless it seemed to suit proceedings down to a tee, and the reception from all corners of the hall was very positive and deservedly so.
There was a noticeable air of excitement in the crowd as the decks were cleared away and prep was completed for the evening’s headline act. It seems that Twigs inspires a degree of devotion amongst her fans normally only displayed by young teenagers worshipping their current boyband idols, and when she did eventually take the stage, it was obvious to see why. Her voice is arresting enough even when listened to recorded and through headphones, but live, with the added impact of her stage presence, it is a genuinely unique experience. Those in attendance seemed totally awestruck and hung off her every word; the opening chords and percussion of ‘Water Me’ receiving the sort of response normally reserved by a crowd to encourage an encore.
Although hardly a subdued affair before, things really took off about halfway through when Twigs invited the crowd “to get a little closer, ” out of their seats and down to the front of the hall. The response was pretty emphatic and around a third of the attendees ran down the steps and climbed over chairs and each other to be treated with a blistering, strobe heavy rendition of ‘Numbers’. From here on in things were decidedly more energetic, and the oddity of the choice of venue was only made clearer by the flustered looks on the faces of the venue’s security staff as the temporary seats at the front of the hall were used as pedestals for the braver members of the audience to climb on during ‘Kicks’. Although people were eventually coaxed down, the mood had been set, and by the time the show finished with an incredibly powerful performance of ‘Two Weeks’ followed by the ominous creep of ‘How’s That’ it seemed like we had all witnessed something quite special.
As a whole event the show was spectacular. Visionist coaxed a great reaction out of a crowd who likely had no idea what they were in for when his name was added to the bill at the last second. Twigs’ performance, alongside that of her band, combined with a superb sound set up and light show that would be the envy of many much larger venues to create something truly exciting that won’t likely be forgotten by any of those in attendance. It seems a shame that next time she is in Manchester she will almost definitely require a larger venue to meet demand, but if the promoters can get it right as they did here, it ought to be something very special indeed.
04.10.2014, Manchester, RNCM
– Thom Drew