26th March | O2 Academy

As we stood there in a packed out O2 Academy, confusion rose as NAO’s band took their places on stage. There was no sign of the East London singer-songwriter, but just as the grumbling began, we found NAO climbing onto the stage from the centre of the crowd. In all my years watching gigs at the O2 Academy, I’ve never seen any artist perform within the crowd and opening with the heartfelt track ‘Another Lifetime’, NAO looked like a goddess, performing with fierce, inescapable intimacy.

Giggling when the crowd screamed for her, she was humble and bashful, constantly thanking the audience for their continued dedication. Her familiarity continued as she shared her deepest secrets with us, like best friends whispering in the night. NAO explained her struggles between the ages of 27-30: her struggles to find her path, to leave difficult relationships and to begin the ascent into adulthood.

She shared with us that her latest album, Saturn was a metaphor for life, escapism and growing up. Her performance throughout the gig maintained that level of intimacy as she sang every track from Saturn confiding in us all her hopes and dreams. She was utterly unaware of the power of her lyrics, delivering them in that gorgeous silky tone she’s so famous for. Not to disappoint her long-time fans, she mixed the new album with iconic hits like ‘Bad Blood’ and collaborative works like ‘FireFly’ with Mura Masa and ‘If You Ever’ with 6LACK.

And it wasn’t just her personality and music that made this gig striking. NAO knew how to put on a show. She wore a neon two-piece; every song had different lighting and quirky props. There was a wind machine, an ornate hand-held fan, a sheer cape and white balloons filled with little LED lights which mimicked Saturn’s album artwork. As the balloons floated through the crowd, the astrological theme was brought to life.

We left the gig feeling both elated and elevated, as if NAO’s intimacy and ethereal setting had released us from the daily struggles of adulthood. She was right: it is hard being an adult but for one, otherworldly hour, NAO became just another friend whose music told a very familiar story.

See the video for ‘Make It Out Alive’ (feat. SiR) here: