There was no standing room left in the Bowery Ballroom on a brisk “spring” night in New York City (May 7). Patrons presumably ranging in age from 18-35 got in formation to see one of music’s budding singers, NAO. The London-bred artist sold out the prestigious Big Apple establishment in a matter of minutes once tickets went live earlier this year, making her first performance in Gotham a date to remember given the rabid screams from attendees.
To set the mood of the evening, old school reggae tunes reminiscent of the first summer BBQ poured its way through the excited conversations fans had before the lights went low. First generation born Caribbean Americans probably felt that familiarity with melodies like “Lost My Sonia” by Cocoa Tea and “Substitute Lover” by Half Pint transporting you back to your childhood. But the musical atmosphere also mimicked the racial makeup of the room. If you took a contorted walk from the crowded bar straight ahead to the populous stage, you might hear a few British accents coated in Jamaican patois or East Asian languages along the way. Not only does NAO’s music utilize sounds from different parts of the world, but it also brings together fans from rich cultural backgrounds.
Before the “Apple Cherry” singer put on a noteworthy performance, she was preceded by another blossoming artist that hails from the United Kingdom as well. Bonzai graced the stage with a sort of confidence that had one woman standing next to me fixated in a trance. Not even the blinking light on her iPhone alerting her that someone’s desperately trying to contact her could take her eyes off the “Sick’em” singer.
The Dublin native effortlessly belted out tunes including “Kassi,” “Nikka,” “Where Are U Now,” to what seemed to be a crowd favorite “Daniel Gets It Wrong.” After shaking hands with eager attendees in the front row following her dance-worthy set, Mura Masa and his one-man-band production sent shockwaves through people’s bodies given the way they willingly submitted to his soundscapes.
His Someday Somewhere EP transfixed your ears to the warbled voices that sat atop the bass heavy songs. Bonzai also reappeared to sing the vocals to a few of Mura Masa’s creations like the addictive melody, “Lovesick F**k.”
After getting called back onstage for an encore, Mura Masa then played his widely-popular hit “Firefly” which has amassed over 5.2 million plays on Soundcloud. The instrumental features guest vocals from NAO, who ahead of her set teased attendees with her performance before retreating to her dressing room to prepare for the main event.
In a black-and-white printed co-ord, the petite singer’s voice was immense given the crowd’s sing-a-long reaction to every song on NAO’s setlist. With tunes like “Inhale Exhale,” “Zillionaire,” “Apple Cherry” and “Take Control Of You,” NAO had the majority of patrons swaying and howling in elation before she exited stage right. But she didn’t stay away from the warm toned lights for too long. Her band returned to fans’ excited screams, and picked up their instruments when NAO preformed one of her top songs, “Bad Blood.”
Produced by GRADES, the replay-worthy track mesmerized attendees with NAO’s vocals that sounds just like the mastered version, to the strums of the guitar and beating of the drum serving as an uncontrollable force that guides your body through the motions. The track came to a close, leading NAO to eternally thank the crowd for their gratitude that evening. She glanced back at her band with a wide smile to see if they could feel the crowd’s energy as they either jumped for joy or screamed with satisfaction, leading one to believe that she would rest well that night given the show’s triumph in the city that never sleeps.