NAO @ Stylus, 27/10/16

Electronic R&B has arguably become one of the buzziest genres around right now.  Artists like FKA twigs and The Weeknd have melded the squeaks and squelches of electronic music with R&B, securing the adoration of blogs, critics and the public alike.  

NAO’s path to stardom has mirrored this process but one of the things that set her apart from her peers is the energy that sizzles throughout her music. Thankfully, this vitality was not missing when she performed to a packed out show in our very own Stylus. This really became apparent in tracks like the defiant ‘We Don’t Give A’ and fan favourite ‘Fool to Love’; she bounded around the stage with pure jubilance inciting a raucous reaction from the crowd.  ‘In the Morning’ played out like an alternative Bond with the London-born singer building the suspense until erupting into a spirited improvised dance routine.

Another aspect of NAO’s unique appeal as a live act is her versatile voice. In her performance of the Noisey-approved ‘Apple Cherry’, her voice glides with ease from downtrodden lows to searing highs over smooth slinky synths. Her voice compliments the gleeful ‘Happy’ and adds to the grandiosity of ‘Girlfriend’.  Even her skilled vocal chords could save the dreary dim ‘Blue Wine’, a low point in an otherwise outstandingly energetic gig.

One of the complaints that could be leveled at NAO is that much of her music could be merged into one long track. But in a live context, this didn’t seem to matter at all, with her music providing a sense of pure fun, absent from many new electronic R&B artists. When NAO’s encore performed ‘Bad Blood’ was greeted with a flurry of cheers from the audience, it was clear she had charmed the entire audience.

Tom Matsuda

Image: Evening Standard

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