Jorja Smith, NAO @ Motion, Bristol, 01/11/2016

NaoWith only the one album about, it’s amazing that Nao seems to be a household name already. The London singer’s discography only goes as far back as 2014, but she's everywhere (even on the walls of London). Her vocal appearances with Mura Masa and Disclosure have certainly helped boost her profile as the wonky funk pioneer but it’s down to her own merit that she’s touring her debut album, For All We Know, released earlier this year.

Jorja Smith is supporting Nao tonight. Her soulful vocal opens the evening at Motion, with classic R&B influences and nods to the 90s and early 00s. Her fast ascent to music popularity mimics Nao’s in a way, as she herself has had over a million plays on Spotify for some of her tracks. Most notable is “Blue Lights” which she ends her set with.

Nao’s show starts with all the flair you’d imagine. The first track on For All We Know, “Intro (Like Velvet)” introduces her set, mimicking the album before she even enters the stage. She comes out to “Happy”, bouncing, album artwork colours lit up behind her, sweet and playful with the crowd.

Her new album certainly gets a workout, with Nao playing the majority of it during her performance. But every track feels like a lead single - they all have a chart-topping rhythm with Nao’s rich vocals entwined by funk and R&B influences. It feels nostalgic, though brought into today’s contextual relevance; it’s not stale or going over old ground. Playing into the 90’s and early 00’s nostalgia some more, Nao seamlessly works JT’s “Senorita” into “Trophy”, her funk band suiting the jazzy elements of Justin Timberlake like a moth to a flame.

She ends her set with Mura Masa’s track “Firefly”, an electronic track she featured on last year which really propelled Nao’s voice into the limelight. “This is where we go off the stage and you go mad because we’re gonna do one more song,” she says to an energised crowd. It’s yet another crowd pleaser, “Bad Blood”, that finishes the evening on a synth-pop high.

There’s no doubt that Nao is a talented performer, grasping all the best bits of classic R&B, funk, soul and electronic music, creating her own wonky funk as she likes to brand it. Her set is energised and fun but she’s not a one trick pony. The funky upbeat element of her tracks is held together by her beautiful vocal and lyrical depth. There’s definitely a lot more we’re going to see of Nao yet.


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