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FKA twigs Entranced Both Fine Line and Paisley Park Audiences

FKA twigs brought it at Fine Line.

FKA twigs brought it at Fine Line.

FKA twigs
with BOOTS
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
Friday, November 14, 2014

FKA twigs performed two shows in the Twin Cities over the weekend. Her sold-out Fine Line appearance on Friday was followed by a surprise performance at Paisley Park with none other than Prince on Saturday. Turning in powerful and unforgettable sets each night, the London singer was astonishing in scope and execution, making for a weekend that will go down in local scene lore for years to come.

See also:
Slideshow: FKA Twigs Mesmerizes at the Fine Line

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FKA twigs brought opening act BOOTS to Friday's Fine Line show, who played with a live band that included a pair of drummers, an electronic percussionist, and himself on guitar and vocals. Straddling contemporary live electronica, in the vein of Poliça and the xx, and mid-'90s pop-industrial guitar rock, the group's sound was at its best at the front end of the set when it maintained an atmospheric sexiness that didn't devolve into overly aggressive radio rawk territory.

The frontman's notoriety as a Roc Nation producer responsible for the bulk of Beyonce's latest album went unmentioned but was evident in certain songs' structuring, which skillfully evoked a decidedly modern instrumental sensibility with just a hint of indulgent rock posturing, but the tail-end of the set veered too close to unfortunate Filter comparisons. It was a mostly excellent set that played better when working in subtleties, reflecting on what makes the work of FKA twigs so powerful -- the art of constraint. 

There was a strong air of anticipation looming large over the crowd as the between-set music began to move from beat-heavy EDM to the tension of ambient drone. When the three men that made up FKA twig's backing band took to the stage, stationed at separate electronic percussion setups with only a light bulb as indication of their presence, the crowd began to roar in a darkened, silent room.

The first notes of "Preface" began to play ("I love another, and thus I hate myself,"), a haunting introduction akin to a church choir that met with unfettered excitement from the audience. twigs stepped to the stage dressed in combat boot high heels and a tight black top cut down the middle by a large studded gold strap, evoking a somewhat Neneh Cherry-circa-Raw Like Sushi vibe.

The stage remained intentionally low-lit, highlighting certain beats of songs with flashes of white light amidst a thick backdrop of fog. The stage show was brutally simple, casting the players as shadows amidst a well-choreographed light show while the music wormed its way into listeners' heads. Her voice, movements, and mystique were the focal points, and all were strong enough to make for one of the best stage shows in live music today.

Moving through songs from her debut album LP1 and the pair of EPs that preceded it, FKA twigs sang searingly and lithely contorted her body, making for an engrossing sensory experience. Her dancing fit the sensual tones of the music, matching the intimacy of the lyrics and the thrust of the instrumentals with a captivating slither that consistently garnered boisterous audience reactions.
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Her band fleshed out the beats with vibrant rhythmic syncopation and additional live instrumentation, occasionally pulling out bass and guitar which made songs like "Hide" and "Papi Pacify" especially impressive. She maintained excellent vocal control, bringing crescendos to their necessary heights and stripping whispered sections to an audible tremble, which made her coy timidity when speaking to the audience all the more surprising.

She had a particular vulnerable intensity, owning the room while remaining true to the music's fragility and quietude. Closing on the erotically charged "How's That," her sinuous tones pitted against chaotic drum clicks and washing synths for a slow build climax, which met with massive applause from a satisfied audience.

A night that seemingly could not be topped was the following evening, as FKA twigs played the famed Paisley Park for a last-minute show thanks to an invite from another artist who once rocked the "formerly known as" moniker.

Prince has always found muse in startlingly talented and beautiful women, and his interest in FKA twigs makes total sense. Her ability to translate pure sexuality into music reflects his own, and they share a similar electric stage presence. She played a similar set in Paisley Park's Love 4 One Another room, maintaining the magic of the previous night but with the added excitement of being in the presence of His Royal Purpleness. Some in this crowd didn't know what to do with the moments of quiet, taking the points of stripped-down ambience as cues to scream "Woo!" incessantly, but in general the crowd remained as appropriately enthralled as the Fine Line show.
After the announced portion concluded, people began to slowly make their way to the larger sound stage area, with the hint that something might be going down inside eventually. Indeed, after the PA played a number of unreleased Prince tracks ("The Ex's Face," "Revelation," "Ain't About to Stop," and "If I Could Get Your Attention," according to Prince Vault), the man himself took to the stage with 3rdEyeGirl backing him up.

Starting with a sludgy, slow-stomp version of "Let's Go Crazy," Prince played the Yang to twigs' Yin with a set of guitar-heavy riffs and solos. The moments were larger than life, as Prince led the audience to sing along to "Plectrumelectrum" and "Play That Funky Music," and "Kiss." Taking long breaks between songs initially, the final set was well worth the wait, as he went on to play "Hot Thing," "Sign O' The Times," "When Doves Cry," "Housequake," and "Fixurlifeup" back to back, with a special appearance from FKA twigs as dancer. (Prince snuck in a brief snippet of Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl," which unfortunately did not become the twigs-fronted cover song I'd hoped it would.)

It was a delight to see her in this other context, juxtaposing a more aggressive take on her earlier motions along to Prince's distinctive funk sound. After powering through some incredible guitar playing for the first portion, Prince manned the keys for the latter part of the set, eventually asking for all the lights to be turned down to turn attention away from the stage.

"There is nothing to see," Prince repeated. "Everybody dance." It was difficult advice at first: An FKA twigs show is very much a visual experience, and being in the presence of Prince makes you want to stare at him. But both sets were also visceral emotional experiences, meant to get swept away in, lost in the feeling entirely. Many were unsure how to dance to FKA twigs' meandering pace and ethereal melodies, while many couldn't stop themselves from dancing to Prince even when he was not onstage. In combination, the pair made for a profoundly enthralling show on all fronts, inspiring a steadfast crowd to new heights of participatory reverence. The weekend's sets will surely be impossible to forget. 

Personal Bias: I'm a sucker for anything on the trip-hop spectrum, and I'm of course a sucker for Prince.

The Crowd: Both crowds contained a range of people, all enthralled by what was happening onstage.

Overheard in the Crowd: "We just saw Robert Pattinson!"

Random Notebook Dump: Prince censors any songs played over the PA at Paisley Park, even his old material. 

Setlist:

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

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