Photo by Talia Andrea
From the outset, Tinashe’s 7th July performance at cool-kid hotspot Electric Brixton promises to be one to remember, even before you’re anywhere near the building; the behemoth of a queue stretching around the block hours before doors open, all dressed in their 2000s-inspired Thursday best, makes you wonder what era you’re in (as well as what era you’ll be in once you finally make it inside the venue).
The packed, but somehow intimate setting of Electric Brixton equally recalls the stripped-down, sweaty club nights of the early 2000s—club nights which only a small proportion of the audience would be old enough to remember outside of MTV music video reruns. That said, pan your gaze across the audience and you immediately see the diversity of the crowd Tinashe attracts. In my radius alone, there are women, men, gay couples and straight couples, sixteen-year-olds and over-sixties, and even two friends who have travelled from America to see her. One of them, a petite Korean lady with a shock of red hair, admirably unfazed by being stuck behind a much taller person, is buzzing at the prospect of getting to see the LA-based singer’s performance up close. She tells me with a note of wonder in her voice that she could see something special about Tinashe even from the screen of her social media feed (and Facebook, at that). “Her voice, her personality—she’s just an amazing performer,” she asserts, even despite the fact she’s never seen Tinashe perform live before. Her male companion pitches in to make a comparison with late Princess of R&B Aaliyah, but we don’t get to delve into a further discussion of the turn-of-the-century female music monarchy before the lights change, and a huge red digital clock display heralds the arrival of the woman of the hour (or, well, the thirty seconds).
Photos by Talia Andrea
Luckily, there’s no fabled Y2K bug in sight this time around, and as the clock hits zero, Tinashe appears, encircled by four ever-smiling female backup dancers who look like they’re having the time of their life—and caught between Tinashe’s energy and the crowd’s screeching enthusiasm, they might well be. Performing a mixture of older material (Songs for You) and her latest album (333, released last August), Tinashe blends her signature airy R&B-pop vocals with rap segments, pre-recorded rock guitar, and non-stop street dance. It’s hard to believe she’s singing live even when she’s standing still, never mind when she’s kick-ball-changing all over the place. High-sass anthems like ‘X’, ‘Love Line’ and ‘Die A Little Bit’ are delivered with attitude and a confidence which she clearly has the talent to back up, though between songs she makes a total transformation, blowing kisses and smiling lovingly at the crowd, before dialling things back for her lower-key, more downtempo tracks ('Small Reminders', 'Like I Used To', 'Naturally'). It’s an act with as much variety as the audience, and as her outfit (a revealing brown leotard over a bright pink bra, with iridescent blue shell joggers and simple white sneakers; it’s the kind of outfit you feel like only she could pull off).
With other songs like ‘Story Of Us’ and ‘Save Room For Us’ set to bizarre projected visuals of mushrooms, flowers and eyeballs behind her, it’s clear to everyone in the room that Tinashe’s sense of visual artistry, and her image as an artist, is integral to her performances. That’s why it feels like an all-important moment when she’s handed a bisexual pride flag by a fan, and waves it proudly around her, before using it as a scarf as she sings. Her love for her fans is palpable, and her enthusiasm never fades from start to finish, no matter how many technical dance moves she does or breakup anthems she belts out. Near the end of the concert, her voice is tinged with emotion as she thanks the crowd “for coming, and being so welcoming when [she’s] so far from home, and for sharing their energy with [her]”. But from the side of the 1,500-strong crowd, you can’t help but feel like you should be thanking her for sharing her energy with you.
Photo by Talia Andrea