Sky Ferreira Shakes Off Nerves, Delivers Engaging Theater Show: Concert Review

Sky Ferreira Belasco - P 2014
Makiko Wakita

Sky Ferreira Belasco - P 2014

The indie pop singer offers a happily messy performance.

The singer combined new tunes with fan favorites during one of the final tour dates promoting her debut album

Sky Ferreira refused to let her nerves get the best of Thursday evening in Los Angeles, despite several onstage acknowledgements that she was battling her anxiety. The 22-year-old singer, who released her debut album Night Time, My Time last year after excessive delays on the part of her record label Capitol, channeled the fear into an impressive and occasionally chaotic performance at the Belasco. Pulling mostly from her album, Ferreira touched on fan favorites like "Boys" and "24 Hours" early on in the set, dampening her unease behind a pair of oversized sunglasses and billowing white smoke that left the singer visible mostly in silhouette.

"I'm a little nervous," she admitted before playing "Sad Dream," a track off her 2012 EP Ghost. "But I’m excited — I’m not going to lie." Seemingly flustered, Ferreira took a false start before asking her band members to begin the number again. "Okay," she said. "Now, we're going to do it right."

The songs that followed didn’t evidence Ferreira's sense of disquiet. Instead, she allowed her nerves to become raw energy that reverberated through the songs, adding a tangible pulse to the music. It was a far cry from her opening set on Miley Cyrus' Bangerz Tour earlier this year, during which Ferreira felt too far removed from the audience and struggled to connect with a fanbase that wasn't there to see her perform. The crowd at the Belasco, however, presented the singer with a massive bouquet of pink flowers and shrieked loudly for her every move, encouraging her confidence and resulting in the eventual removal of her sunglasses.

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Ferreira, with her signature blonde hair now a messy dark brown, channeled Dead Weather-era Alison Mosshart, her leather jacket and short black shirt lending a rocker-chic edge to the singer. Her boyfriend, DIIV's Zachary Cole Smith, emerged onstage for three songs with his guitar, including "My Molly," an Ariel Pink track and "Ghost." The couple kissed as Smith exited the stage, much to the delight of the audience.

The highlight of the performance was the debut of new material, which will likely appear on Ferreira’s sophomore album. The singer remains on Capitol Records, despite her past issues with the label, but has a new manager and new A&R to help helm the tracks she's been working on with producers Ariel Rechtshaid and Justin Raisen. Early in the evening, Ferreira offered a brand new song called "Guardian," an anthemic indie pop number centered on the chorus line, "I want to be free from all the dark that lives inside of me."

The singer acknowledged her trepidation in sharing the song. "This is a new song," she noted. "I've never played it in front of anyone. I think two people have heard it, besides my band. It's for my next record." Her nerves were for naught — if "Guardian" is an indicator of Ferreira's new material, fans have much to look forward to. The song felt more emotionally open than some of her previous material, perhaps because Ferreira is finally more in control of her own career.

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In general, the show, the first of several West Coast dates that will wrap her touring on Night Time, My Time, seemed to showcase a more genuine aspect of Ferreira. Her rattled moments felt sincerely human and urged a sense of camaraderie in the audience, a revelation that even rock stars get scared before they go onstage. "There’s nothing more weird than drinking water in front of, like, 800 people," Ferreira acknowledged at one point as she fumbled with her bottle of water and struggled to remove its cap. More of that sort of earnestness should follow as she continues to tour — less smoke, less sunglasses and less reverb covering her voice would all encourage a stronger connection with the crowd.

Watching a musician learn in front of a crowd is interesting, probably because it gives us a reference point for our own stumbles. Ferreira doesn't quite have it figured out, like anyone else, and we know that because she doesn't try to mask her anxiety when standing onstage. Instead, she uses it to fuel her performance, which is far more engaging than watching a pop star roll through perfectly choreographed but meaningless motions. When Ferreira messes up onstage, she just starts again with enthusiasm and makes it better, which is a good lesson to all of us.