fka twigs’ afropunk set was an otherworldly experience
August 30, 2019
Headlining AFROPUNK Brooklyn this year, FKA twigs gave festival-goers a visually stunning closing performance that pulled together years worth of musical material and masterful movement. Her AFROPUNK performances in Brooklyn and in Atlanta later this fall are the final dates of her Magdalene tour and this past Sunday’s was her first appearance in New York City since her theatrical performance at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan back in May. Along with debuting new unreleased songs as well as recreating the contorted musical dynamic that informs her releases, FKA twigs also displayed a full range of new stage-ready skills. For the last decade, FKA twigs has cultivated a vibrant and avant-garde spirit in R&B.
As the lights rise on the Green stage, processed and filtered vocals slowly unfurl next to electronic beats. A dreamlike backdrop illuminates the stage after a flurry of strobing light effects rests on FKA twigs adorning a reimagined prairie dress. Her ruffled and translucent look flowed elegantly with her own studied water-like movements as she sings “Water Me” through opaque and delayed vocal effects. After she runs through two songs from her debut album LP1, twigs cuts off the airy atmosphere, turning towards darker territories. Where the beginning of FKA twigs’ stage presence was designed around vulnerability, the later portions lean into the epic and operatic. Themes of duality play out throughout the performance showing every potential angle of twigs’ persona: the hard, the soft as well as the innocent and the experienced. As with the change, her look shifts to medieval garb and red-hot scarlet. twigs even draws a sword in a surprising display of Chinese martial arts-inspired movement; at other times she breaks down into a full ballroom vogue sequence.
Many have made reference to Kate Bush when describing experiencing FKA twigs live and the comparison stands to reason. Where twigs’ sonic language blurs from lush pop ballads to elastic sound design her stage presence is grounded in stunning visual orchestration, choreography and a visible mastery over the entire scope of the stage as a theatrical device among other technical elements. Reminiscent of Grace Jones’s “A One Man Show,“ fan favorite “Two Weeks” is led with a deconstructed and pitched vocal intro followed by the revealing of scaffolding later taken over by a troupe of dancers. Her career started as a backup dancer and this expertise is shown front and center. During a well-received encore run of her most recent single “Cellophane,” FKA twigs, wearing a deconstructed button-down, throws herself into the heartfelt ballad and launches into a pole dancing sequence seen in the song’s video. Unlike the psychedelic imagery of the video, Twig’s live rendition is bare and she is alone in real-time, showcasing how a single body can move masses.
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