For the past couple of years, we’ve secretly been hiding how much of a fan we really are of UK singer/songwriter NAO.
Last night, we finally had that bucket-list dream of seeing her live come true as she took the stage at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory to perform to a sold-out crowd.
In town for this year’s Laneway Festival, NAO was the ONLY artist we were interested in seeing, and was stoked to find out she was performing a couple of sideshows with Sydney being selected as one of the chosen few.
That night, we showed up early! We were there for support act Kučka and for DJ FlexMami spinning tunes in between; neither of which were anything to write home about; if you know what we mean. Kučka‘s production and beats impressed us more than her vocals and whilst FlexMami played all the artists that you would want to hear, her transitions weren’t exactly smooth. We felt we could do a better job by putting our iTunes library on shuffle.
But back to the main act.
There is something inspiring about watching a performer who is giving their all on stage but there is nothing quite like watching someone who does it with little to no effort. It’s hard to try and look like it comes naturally and there are few performers who can really put the audience at ease. NAO is one of those rare artists who can do just that.
As the lights went dim, we knew it was time and we waited, holding our breaths. And in those moments of silence, NAO‘s voice sang acapella the words of ‘Like Velvet’ and that’s exactly how her vocals sounded as they floated across the stage, before jumping right into ‘Happy’ and ‘Inhale, Exhale’.
By this time, the Sydney crowd was grooving along freely to her unique sound – which by the way, we really think it shouldn’t have a label slapped across it, but for those of you who are wondering, it’s a fusion of neo-soul, pop, alt-R&B, jazz and electronica – and her somewhat seductive dance moves as she worked the crowd.
Her sweet voice addressed the crowd soon after, “What’s up, Sydney? My name is NAO!” and we were very surprised by the contrast of her speaking voice to the powerful voice that followed in her performance (above) of ‘In The Morning,’ ‘Girlfriend,’ and ‘Apple Cherry.’
Her debut album “For All We Know” was one of last year’s best debut records and it made up the bulk of her Sydney set, with performances including ‘Fool to Love,’ ‘DYWM’, and a surprise mash-up of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Senorita’ with her own ‘Trophy’ which of course had the whole crowd singing and grooving along!
Her set ended with ‘Firefly’ but of course, the crowd in Sydney was not willing to let her go that easily. Stepping back on stage to a loud, cheering and roaring crowd, NAO performed one last song in the form of ‘Bad Blood’ which had every single person in The Oxford Art Factory singing along – at least that’s what it sounded like. Her ability to sing in her lower and higher registry in that song was so incredibly powerful to witness!
Seriously, can we just go back to that night and relive her electrifying performance over and over again? PLEASE!
Wednesday 1 February
Oxford Art Factory