For the first time London had Haitus Kyote’s lead singer, Nai Palm, at Koko to perform her own solo music in a night which defined her new direction with music. It was amazing just to see her on stage, and to finally hear her voice properly; she truly is one of the most impressive singers around today.
Ellah May, alongside her guitarist, opened the show with a gentle performance of some of her originals set to rich, chordal riffs from the guitar. She had a very soft voice, and sort of sat in the same range as the guitarist, which didn’t create much impact from her melodies. They had some cross-rhythms between themselves, but lacked impact without a full band behind, and seemed a bit forced at some points.
Next up was Fehdah, an Irish singer with a massive voice and a huge amount of energy. It was her first show in London and you could feel her excitement throughout the performance. A lot of her songs had an Irish folk influence to them in terms of harmonies, which she added to with interesting rhythms and melodies.
The opening acts were impressive, although it seemed that they were trying to emulate the headliner’s sound (or at least were heavily inspired by it), only adding a few interesting quirks to their performances. It would’ve been nicer to hear something that complimented Nai Palm’s sound rather than incorporating it to the point where it’s hard to differentiate between all three of them. Regardless, the show was absolutely awesome and if anything, the opening acts made you appreciate just how amazing Nai Palm actually is. And any issues with the previous acts went away when Nai Palm touched the stage; she came out rocking a sparkling leotard, a cream Jackson flying V, and a voice that filled the entire venue. What was most impressive and unique to the live performance was her control over her voice; she was able to come all the way down to a low whisper then open her voice up all within the same phrase. Definitely different from recordings and tailored for the stage, she sung with a lot of power and dynamics. Yet, the intricacies of her voice were not lost through the microphone; you could still hear the low, slightly husky tones, sounding almost like tenor sax at some points. And the unity between her guitar playing and vocals was incredibly tight. At points she tried to get the audience to sing along, which was impossible as we were all in awe, and the moment any number of people joined in, she went off on some other beautiful melody which shut us right up again.
The songs she performed were beautiful. It was a mix of original pieces and covers, all infused with crazy vocal ad-libs. My favourite cover she sung was of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)’, just after telling us that she was going to perform at his house the next day. She put the song in a different perspective, singing it as if she was this ‘electric ladyland’ and wanted to share herself, making it more sexual than even Jimi had intended. She ended with her song ‘Homebody’, this slow, melancholy tune which sort of fitted, since everyone was sad it was about to be over! The open harmonies matched her aching lyrics and left the audience feeling empty; an interesting end to one of the best singer/songwriter performances I had ever experienced.