Rina Sawayama lives in Manchester: a jubilant, fun sight

Rina Sawayama’s reorganized show in Manchester’s Albert Hall has been long awaited, to say the least. Tonight (November 9) is just the second date for Sawayama’s first tour in two years, giving fans their first chance to see the artist’s 2020 debut album ‘SAWAYAMA’ in the live arena. The genre-defying smash that flew from nu-metal to 00s R&B and country to euphoric pop, boasted seismic musical shifts (the type of artists might have had over an entire career, not a record) and only now gets the live excursion it deserves.

The show faithfully opens to the album with the lavish ‘Dynasty’, a grandiose track made to be played at venues with acoustics like Albert Halls; the space soon has the feel of a sweaty underground rock scene, while the violent nu-metal flourishes in ‘STFU!’ break out in life. The electro-house bounce from the lively ‘Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)’ transforms the venue once again into a bubbly club environment – a testament to the varied nature of the eponymous record she tours.

Rina Sawayama performs in Manchester’s Albert Hall, 9/11/2021 (Photo: Alice Backham / Press)

Sawayama is joined by a sleek two-piece band and two dancers on a production set that has cascade steps and mirrored panels. The meticulous choreography and altered arrangements of her songs result in a dazzling, all-encompassing pop attack on the senses, the kind that usually takes place on far larger stages than these; even bigger venues are already planned for this tour. There is a set of shiny routines – complete with windblown hair thanks to an electric fan located at the front of the stage – vocal gymnastics, buckets of charisma and a self-aware, playful streak. ‘Snake skin’ is preceded by a short excursion from Succession theme tunes, while there are numerous dance breaks, costume changes and roaring guitar solos throughout.

The stage teasing is as entertaining and endearing as she is: “Have you ever behaved badly? Have you ever been naughty? ” she teases the audience before ‘Paradise’ ‘. “I have … and I had that damn good time.” She soon whips out a plastic saxophone and mimes to play it during an extravagant solo, before she and her dancers collapse on the floor at the end of another bubbly number that resonates with the wait on this tour: “Throughout 2020, I was basically seen in this position – horizontally ”.

Rina Sawayama
Rina Sawayama performs in Manchester’s Albert Hall, 9/11/2021 (Photo: Alice Backham / Press)

The gripping ballad ‘Chosen Family’, a tribute to the LGBTQ + family that Sawayama considers part of his own, is stripped back as Sawayama sits on the stage steps with his band to perform an emotionally charged acoustic rendition. It’s an amazing moment: one that puts the full focus on Sawayama’s serious lyrics and vocals. When the song ends, the audience cheers – a community year along the way – for a full minute. It’s goosebumps all the way around, and a sweet nod to the fans that got her to this position and the jumps she’s about to take.

Rina Sawayama played:

‘Like The Boys’ (Like The Boys)
‘Akasaka Sad’
‘Snake skin’
‘Cyber ​​Stockholm syndrome’
‘Love me 4 me’
‘Bad friend’
‘Fuck This World’
“Who will save you now?”
Tokyo Love Hotel
‘Selected family’
‘Free woman’

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