Shooting to fame in the first lockdown with her critically acclaimed album ‘Sawayama’, Rina Sawayama has since performed at Coachella and The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon before hitting the road alone again. Now halfway through her Hold The Girl tour, fresh off the heels of her sophomore album, ‘Hold The Girl’, Sawayama stopped by Manchester’s Academy for an electric gig in support of the eclectic album.
Indeed, it can be easy for artists to be daunted by midweek shows yet Sawayama found herself entering the stage, to pop-ballad ‘Minor Feelings’ with a crowd enamoured by her voice already, exclaiming “you guys are so loud already!” Transcending nu-metal through to electro-pop, the Japanese-born artist creates a trance, having the crowd follow every move she makes as her dancers guide them through each era and genre that Sawayama appears to master. She goes on to talk about the difficulties creating her latest record, an honest speech that is met with an outpour of love: “Therapy and talking about what I was going through was so important,” she begins. “This record, at its heart, is about reaching a dark hood.”
While Manchester Academy is one of the best places to see live music, the size of the stage can sometimes limit the capacity for an artist to put on a real show. Considering that Sawayama specialises in well-crafted dance-pop, her high-levelled production and performance could have easily been lost to the cons of a smaller venue yet the singer-songwriter made sure to utilise what was on offer. Not only does the 32-year-old present a fantastic live act, but she also brings forth a performance consisting of a stage presence echoing the greats who came before her, emphasising the fact that Sawayama is made for the stage. If anything, with inventive lights, stage design, costume changes and captivating choreography, her performance is one crafted for arenas.
With a record that sports a more balls-out pop feel compared to its predecessor, the enthusiastic crowd were fully engaged from the get-go. The suite of bangers in the first half of the set, ‘Hold The Girl’ and ‘Catch Me In The Air’, keeps fans on their toes longer than expected, some tracks being accompanied by learnable choreography, whilst the absolute fury of ‘Your Age’ and ‘Imagining’ finds Sawayama stomping around the stage and openly captures female anguish as she drops to the floor, rocking with her hands over her ears.
Bringing the ricocheting set, which swerved from metal guitars to power ballads, to a close, the highlight of the show came from the encore. Channelling the confidence of Shania Twain through the use of the famous “let’s go girls” phrase, the second the crowd heard the tongue-in-cheek ‘This Hell’ kick in, the roars within The University of Manchester’s main hall had never been louder. As she splits the crowd in half, placing them in competition with one another, the longing for the night to last forever lingers in the air. No one wants the impeccable show to end.
With a show like tonight’s, it’s easy to say Rina Sawayama is destined for brilliance but she’s already it. Her charisma creates a certain fascination with the crowd, each individual in the room constantly gawking over every move she makes, showcasing that her sudden growth to stardom is something well deserved. To sum it up, Rina Sawayama is an artist you definitely don’t want to miss – go and see her whilst you can.