It feels like a brave thing to hold your debut headline show in a city, without any proper support act. It also feels like a brave move to have your stage set-up consist of a three-piece band of electronic drums beat programmers and a solitary guitar, and a dozen lights or so. You’ve got to be one hell of a performer to combat such starkness, but fortunately for FKA twigs, she’s possibly the most charismatic popstar of the moment.
In waiting an hour and a half before the star of the show appeared, the Dancehouse Theatre’s atmosphere was somewhere between an audience waiting for a play (a feeling helped by the theatrical red curtains) and a club where dancing was forbidden. It was so rammed with people, I was sweating more than Snoop Dogg going through customs. The choice of a hip-hop/trap mix from Mancunian DJ Juicy as pre-show entertainment was an strange one, given that - whilst sharing a few sonic similarities - those genres are kind of at odds with the music FKA produces. As fellow Hitsvillian and companion for the evening Ivan noted, a more appropriate warm-up would’ve been Bjork’s discography.
Eventually striding on stage in all white - tube top, oversized sleeveless shirt, baggy boxing shorts - and a gold body chain, twigs has a presence which defies her diminutive stature. Throughout the set, she moved with the swagger and confidence of a veteran, truly hypnotic. Her dance moves were beguiling, smooth without feeling overly choreographed (if choreographed at all), whilst the lighting helped set moods and tones perfectly. Musically, the whole show was on point, although it had no help from the rather lacklustre sound system more becoming of a high school talent show, than a professional pop concert. That said, nothing can really dint the power and quality of a one-two punch of “Papi Pacify” and “Two Weeks”, songs which verge on transcendent when heard performed in person.
Despite not exactly being an Alex Turner-esque master of between-songs banter, twigs had the crowd in the palm of her hand regardless. After admitting she never thought this would happen, she mentioned her first time playing Manchester was as a support for James Blake. The mention of the dub wunderkind’s name drew a single boo from the sea of cheers, which was met by an ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek “Boo? Don’t boo. James Blake is sick, bruv”. It’s this off-the-cuff charm which belies the slightly distant and removed air of FKA twigs’ music, and should hopefully see her remain a fixture of pop music for a long time to come. Should you get the chance, you positively need to see twigs live. You won’t regret it.