Nao, or to give you her full name, Neo Jessica Joshua rolled into town on Thursday night as part of her current UK tour and delivered what can only be described as a barn stormer of a set to a packed house in Leeds, and what a set it was.
First up as support was Jamie Isaac with his four-piece band, and showcased his ambient dance with a slightly jazzy vibe which was well received by the crowd. His laidback vocal style, along with his highly talented band were able to deliver a tight and accomplished set. ‘Wings’ from his ‘Idler’ album was for me the standout track of the evening. It can only be a matter of time before we can look forward to seeing him tour in his own right very soon.
By 9:00pm the hall was almost to capacity in readiness for Nao to take to the stage. The band duly trouped on and went into an instrumental groove, but there was no sign of Nao. At the point the entire audience turned their gaze to spotlight aimed in the middle of the crowd and there standing on a riser was Nao!
She proceeded to go straight into the mighty ‘Another Lifetime’ from her most recently released album ‘Saturn’ which came out in Oct 18. Her distinctive vocal style, think Minnie Ripperton meets Shanice, and deep funk vibe from the band set the tone for the rest of the show.
The pace of the gig didn’t let up as she made her way back to the stage, it was straight into ‘If You Ever’ with its funky R&B feel she proceeded to work every inch of the stage with here energetic delivery. She very quickly built up a rapport with the audience and her infectious joy at performing was responded to by the audience with their deafening applause and cheers during the evening.
Balloons at the side of the stage (a Saturn album cover reference) were passed out the audience as well, and surprisingly some managed to survive the evening!
The pacing of the show was bang on as well with her mix of ballads and bangers being well received by the Leeds crowd. Funk workouts like ‘Gabriel’ had everyone moving whilst ‘Saturn’ originally a collaboration with Kwabs, and ‘Girlfriend’ had the phone lights held aloft.
‘Yellow of the Sun’ with its swing beat groove showcased just how good her band are and her soaring vocals over the top were just one of the many highlights of this set. Encore tracks ‘Drive and Disconnect’ with its African dance vibe and the thunderous ‘Bad Blood’ with its insistent guitar hook line brought the set to a close and that was it, 90 minutes gone in what seemed like a flash.
Its hard not to like Nao, it’s clear she loves what she does, she knows how to engage with people, has a band that are at the top of their game and of course having killer tunes does help.
As I left the venue, I overheard someone say that was in their top 3 gigs of the year so far. For me I have to say that has been THE gig of the year for me so far.
She’s a busy girl touring for the next few months, I would urge you get yourselves a ticket and go see what all the fuss is about. I don’t think you’ll regret it!!
· Another Lifetime
· If You Ever
· Make It Out Alive
· Fool To Love
· Adore You
· Brown Sugar/Inhale Exhale
· Get To Know Ya
· Yellow Of The Sun
· Drive And Disconnect
· Bad Blood