FKA Twigs Contorts, Slithers, Transforms Debut Album at L.A.'s Belasco Theatre: Concert Review

Kyleen James
FKA Twigs allows her concerts to be a completely new experience from the album.

The singer's between-the-Coachellas concert took on the feel of a moody performance art piece.

FKA Twigs’ lyrics are of little importance during her live performances. The audience's connection to the British musician comes through her languid movements, the serpentine slither of her arms and the contortionist arching of her back, which mirror the motions in her music. FKA Twigs' falsetto croon, which soars over her staccato, trip-hop instrumentals, doesn’t leave much space for discernment onstage — the words and songs blend together to create a mood rather than a narrative. On Tuesday night at the Belasco Theater, the artist took the audience on a succinctly wrought journey through her debut album, LP1, which dropped last August and topped numerous 2014 year-end lists, unveiling 15 songs in a little over an hour, hardly pausing throughout.

Dressed in a white crop trop and flowing blue pants that looked like a designer interpretation of scrubs, the artist commanded the stage, slinking back and forth as she danced and posed. The lights were appropriately sparse, backlighting the singer in blue and white while strobes flashed in sync with her dance moves.

FKA Twigs amped up the already dramatic “Video Girl” by enacting its emotional fervor with her body, transforming the song from its recording. This physical expression, projected so palpably into the audience, is why her lyrics become secondary in concert. At times, it’s frustrating not to be able to understand the words, which flow together and become conflated onstage, but FKA Twigs offers a different means of understanding the songs when she’s present in the room. 

Her menacingly raw rendition of “Glass & Patron” was a standout, a more aggressive version of the song with a varied sensibility from the one on display in its music video, which the artist herself directed. FKA Twigs paused midway through her set, only momentarily, to thank the crowd for coming.

The only hiccup came during “Pendulum,” an intense ballad of sorts, which FKA Twigs insisted on doing for a second time when she wasn’t satisfied with her initial performance. “Wait,” she told her three-piece band. “I want to go from the beginning.”

There was no encore, perhaps because the musician doesn’t yet have enough music to warrant one, but FKA Twigs punctuated the set with a double punch of her emotive, billowing single “Two Weeks” and ambient number “How’s That.” Between songs she knelt at the front of the stage and snapped selfies with fans. “Thank you so much for being my friends,” she said, “and being so supportive and so loyal. It means a lot to me.”

FKA Twigs is only performing limited shows this spring, including this weekend at Coachella and in New York in May. But fans of her music would do well to seek out any instance where the artist appears onstage. Where many musicians dutifully re-create their recordings live, presuming that’s how the audience wants to hear them, FKA Twigs allows her concerts to be a completely new experience from the album. It doesn’t necessarily matter that you don’t always know what she’s singing because you have a sense of what she’s singing about. Her album, as well as its many accompanying videos, feels like it comes from a place of sincere expression, from a fully realized and wholly unique artistic aesthetic — and last evening showcased a similar sensibility in her performance. Why try to discern the words when you can watch FKA Twigs dance their meanings?

Set List:

Preface
Hide
Video Girl
Water Me
Lights On
Give Up
Figure 8
Glass & Patron
Numbers
Papi Pacify
Ache
Kicks
Pendulum
Two Weeks
How's That

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