Music came together with art and fashion and the dance underground at approximately 102 degrees on Sunday night in New York City, when FKA twigs debuted her multimedia extravaganza Congregata at the cavernous outer-borough performance space Brooklyn Hangar.
As temperatures rose to levels usually reserved for Russian bathhouses, it was hard to tell how much heat originated in the capacity crowd of chicly underdressed Brooklynites and how much came directly from twigs, a remarkably dynamic performer currently operating at the fringes of pop music—who yes, also happens to be the future Mrs. Robert Pattinson.
The British singer born Tahliah Barnett began her career as a backup dancer, and movement has always been an integral part of her live shows. But the production values of this three-night run (aided, presumably, by the underwriting largess of Red Bull, which sponsored the show via its Music Academy), seems to signal a sort of sea change. Her songs, though uniformly pretty, previously felt a little like scaffolding to hang her plush vocals and snake-hipped Scheherazade persona on—more avant-R&B sketches than real, sturdy pop constructions.
If it’s possible to watch someone become a star in real time, though, this may have been it: Barely a year after booking living-room-size venues like Brooklyn’s late lamented Glasslands, she held a new kind of command over the Hangar’s much larger stage. That came partly from turning up the volume on all fronts, both literally and figuratively—fan favorites including “Water Me,” “Lights On,” “Pendulum,” and “Video Girl” were supplemented by newer, more urgent funk outbursts like “Glass & Patron”—but mostly by letting her first creative love, dance, take over.
A remarkable all-male team of krumpers, vogue ballers, and possible Cirque du Soleil runaways supported her and sometimes even dominated the stage (which also allowed her to change outfits a number of times, though she always kept her glittering cage-like bustier as a building block). Several setpieces, including a furious Vogue-off that slyly sampled just a single whispered line—“what are you lookin’ at?”—from Madonna’s classic track, and a visual feat involving a curtain of red lasers and a mirrored matador’s jacket that turned twigs into a dazzling human disco ball, actually drew gasps. A take on what may now be her signature song, “Two Weeks,” in which she was accompanied only by an industrial fan and a billowing length of red chiffon, offered one of the night’s most well-judged moments of stillness.
Despite social media’s fresh interest in her personal life (Pattinson, fully incognito without his vampire sparkle, stood happily by the bar) It’s hard to imagine FKA twigs’ strange, entrancing aesthetic breaking through the pop noise of the mainstream. But with these performances, she already seems well on her way to doing something far more interesting.