FKA Twigs | Live Review
Tahliah Debrett Barnett, perhaps better known as her moniker FKA Twigs, parts a set of deep red curtains at Sydney’s Carrigeworks. The UK-born producer, singer, songwriter, director and dancer emerges before the crowd, donned in a curious hybrid between modern streetwear and Jacobean decadence. Eyes hid behind tiny retro sunglasses, Twigs starts to tap dance, a back and forth between her feet and jazz scats booming from speakers overhead.
Twigs is recognised as one of the most elusive, enigmatic artists of today, and is performing one night only in Sydney as part of her ‘Magdalene’ tour. We hear her familiar breathy, disembodied vocals:
“A woman’s touch, a sacred geometry, A woman’s time to embrace she must put herself first…”
The tour is the first glimpse audiences have into the new material on her upcoming album. This comeback tour (the last time she was in Australia was four years ago) is lyrical processing of the breakdown of her engagement with actor Robert Pattinson. Magdalene is a meditation on femininity, seduction and strength. Twigs is vulnerable, but she is certainly not defeated.
Twigs had her audience more or less at her mercy as the concert took place. The term “concert” or even “gig” is not a sufficient descriptor for what we witnessed; the performance was a sensory overload in the best way possible, feeling more like a great theatrical movement in which Twigs slipped on various masks to offer glimpses into different sides of her femininity: the angelic white virgin, the lover who is marred by heartache, the seductress.
Accompanied on stage by a troupe of muscular dancers who move with hedonic precision, Twigs expertly traversed her discography, about half a dozen costumes, and an array of dance styles.
The great swaths of cloth which first served as a backdrop were lowered to reveal a metallic scaffold on which three musicians perched. Twigs’ dancers slithered up and down the metal rungs.
Twigs was a shapeshifter, exchanging her microphone at one point for a samurai sword. Her set list was a varied movement, from heavy RnB rhythms to heart wrenching ballads. Among these was ‘Mirrored Heart’, in which the singer’s voice shook tremendously as she wept on stage, throwing herself repeatedly to the ground.
In ‘Home to You’, another new track, Twigs resembled a glittering Romani, showing off her impressive local range while her dancers surrounded her with myriad dramatic masks. A crowd favourite, ‘Two Weeks’, featured the artist in a dress which appeared to be that of a French aristocrat, except for the fact that it was made entirely out of men’s oxford shirts. Twigs’ shimmering vocals were accompanied by dreamy pink lighting and falling confetti.
Built into the scaffolding was a pole on which, during her song ‘Lights on’—a particularly saucy number about doing it with the lights on—Twigs spun around gracefully, as she does in her most recent music video, exhibiting her undeniable strength and power.
I should admit at this point, that I am writing from a place of privilege at FKA Twigs’ performance. I, unlike many patrons, was actually able to view the visually intoxicating show.
Carrigeworks was highly critiqued after the event due to visibility issues, as many audience members were unable to view the stage. The performance was held in Bay 24 and 25—essentially just a large, flat slab of concrete. There was no screen for those standing back to view the performance. As a result, many people spent the duration of the show staring at the back of someone’s head, which is perhaps not worth the $110 price of each ticket, paid by the crowd of 3,700 patrons. Despite being fairly close to the front and of average height, I found myself standing on my toes in order to see.
People took to Facebook to voice concerns, some forced to leave the venue entirely:
This is not the first time Carriageworks has come under fire, as similar concerns were raised at St. Vincent’s performance last year. Carrigeworks publicly apologised following the response, stating, “The international staging for Twigs’ Magdalene tour does not include large scale video screens. We take on board your comments about staging height and will work towards making our future music events better.”
Disappointment aside, the ending of the show was spectacular. Twigs was stripped back, alone on stage in front of the closed curtains performing a raw, heartfelt version of her latest single, ‘Cellophane’. Her final lyrics, “And hoping I’m not enough”, were immediately answered by a passionate audience member’s cry, “Girl, you are more than enough!”, leaving the songwriter beaming.
It was a stellar performance for those who could see it.