British neo-soul artist Nao graced the stage of The Novo in Downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 18. Coming off the high of her massively successful debut album “For All We Know” in 2016, the 31-year-old songstress is back with her sophomoric album “Saturn” chronicling the heartbreak of ending a six-year relationship.
The album’s title references the astrological theory of a Saturn Return. A Saturn Return is the astrological period in which a person goes through a tumultuous time between the ages of 27-31. Usually, this astrological phase in a person’s life is when they go through massive changes that can ultimately destroy them or make them incredibly resilient.
In an interview with Dazed magazine, Nao gets her birth chart read and mentions how the concept of a Saturn Return really resonated with her spiritually.
“I remember my friends started to go through their own Saturn Returns, and I was like, what’s that?” she explained. “They started talking about the spiritual side of it, how Saturn is the planet of growth, and lessons, and rebirth. I feel like that’s really beautiful. Even if you’re not spiritual or you don’t believe in astrology, I felt like everyone can relate to this idea that when you get to your late 20s, big changes happen.”
Xavier Omar was her opening act. He reached fame when he was formerly known as the artist called SPZRKT and started his singing career in 2012. With three EPs under his belt — “Hours Spent Loving You,” “Pink Lightning” and “The Everlasting Wave” — and having a song appear in the critically acclaimed show “Insecure,” it’s no wonder that he’s touring with Nao.
Omar is a well-established indie R&B artist that set the mood for the night. He sang some of his hits such as “Runnin’ Round,” “Blind Man” and “Afraid.” His sound embodies a smooth R&B ambiance with mellow beats.
After Omar left the stage, about 20 to 30 minutes passed before Nao came on. The venue roared with excitement as the lights went down and the singer began with “Another Lifetime.” Nao was dressed in a holographic shimmery kimono with an orange piece that was reminiscent of a genie.
Her hair bounced around with her every movement as she looked out to the crowd and said, “If any of you are having a bad day, a bad month or a bad year, spend two hours with me and cry together, laugh together and have a good time.”
She did not go back on that promise.
For the next two hours of her performance, Nao took us to a spellbinding, cathartic, groovy and soothing space. For an R&B artist, I was surprised to see that her live performance was more electric than what her studio versions of her songs usually suggest.
While her repertoire is full of wavy and, somewhat, psychedelic tunes, her band had some really spectacular guitar solos that added a special kind of energy to the live performances of her songs. A few performances that got the crowd’s attention because of Nao’s different stylistic approach when setting up the show were “Saturn,” “Get to Know Ya” and “Fool to Love.”
There were small parts of the concert where Nao took a breather and talked to the audience about how she loved being in LA, why she named her album “Saturn” and talked about how growth can come for us in even the darkest and troubling times. She discussed how if people would allow the universe to give them what they know they deserve, everything will work out in their favor. It really gave the audience a deeper insight as to why she was inspired to theme her album around the concept of her Saturn Return, and it made her performance so much more meaningful.
The performance of her song “Orbit” was transcendent. The song itself is about someone coming to terms with the fact that their lover has to let them go. Both of them know they aren’t good for each other even though they gravitate towards each other.
Overall, NAO’s concert was phenomenal. She captivated the audience from start to finish. She sang with every last breath she had in her, ultimately ending the concert on the highest of notes with the song that catapulted her to fame, “Bad Blood.”
Down below is the setlist for her concert:
“Make It Out Alive” ft. SiR
“Fool to Love”
“Inhale Exhale/Brown Sugar”
“Get to Know Ya”
“A Life Like This”
“Yellow of the Sun”
“Drive and Disconnect”