Dawn Richard is still far from a mainstream name here in the UK, despite her profile in the US as part of Danity Kane and a successful solo career. Yet despite only performing to a small but dedicated crowd at XOYO, this was a superstar performance. “You made it feel like home,” she said as she thanked fans at the end.
What was clear from the outset was the sheer energy of Richard’s performance. Ably accompanied by two on-stage dancers, she hit every accent on every beat with hair flicks, drops and choreography. And it was all delivered with sexual flair: coquettish smirks at the audience followed by impressive athleticism.
What was most impressive, though, was that she maintained her vocals throughout. She may not have the depth of tone of some of her contemporaries, but there’s a purity to her runs and riffs that are sung with total accuracy and strong emotion. That’s true whether she’s singing dance anthems like the appropriately titled Dance and Calypso, or a cover of Wild Horses that samples Crystal Castles’ Not In Love and had plenty of punch.
Still, it’s dance music that Richard excels at and here she’s created quite a niche. Her fusion of RnB, hip-hop, DnB and dance is irresistible, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. There’s an air of experimentation to the production too, ensuring this rises far above the usual EDM fare even if lyrically this isn’t always the richest material. This gig was an invitation into her world – a world of sex, metallic synths, and heavy beats performed with fierce conviction that sits somewhere between the likes of Aaliyah, Beyoncé and FKA Twigs.
That world was certainly consistent, but it does have its limitations. The setlist barely let up, relentlessly driving through over a mere 45 minutes. And it consisted mainly of songs from most recent album ‘Blackheart’ – a nod to preceding album ‘Goldenheart’ would’ve been welcome.
Regardless, Richard proved herself an almighty force with soaring vocals and euphoric beats that deserved a far bigger stage to match her energy – in her final song she even walked through the audience so we could bathe in her glory even closer. “You never lost faith in me,” she sang on opening song Faith. No matter which side of the pond you’re on, there’s no reason to doubt her.