by Caroline Smith
I arrived at The Sinclair around 10:35 pm, 5 minutes after the opener was slated to start. However, luckily for me (or unluckily), I was greeted by a line from the venue around the corner of the street and down the next block– since they hadn’t even opened doors. I took my spot what felt like a mile away from the entrance, and saddled up for what ended up being over an hour and a half wait just to finally get inside at 12:10 am.
Due to the delay, opener Jaala began playing as people were still filtering in. While Jaala is normally a four-piece, the only person onstage was the band’s singer, songwriter and guitarist, Cosima Jaala. Her voice was unique and strong, and while she talked to the audience about being nervous (and a little drunk), it didn’t show in her performance. The one true downfall of the few songs I saw wasn’t her fault at all– it was that people really didn’t stop talking throughout her performance. This disturbance was so intense that a stage manager actually came out on stage after Jaala to ask the audience to show Nai Palm a little more respect.
Luckily for Nai Palm, it’s difficult to be anything less than completely enraptured by her. She has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard live, and while this is definitely apparent on Hiatus Kaiyote recordings and her solo album Needle Paw, it’s impossible to fully grasp her power and vocal control without seeing her on stage. She was alone on stage, and yet she easily commanded the venue with her soulful voice and stage presence. She opened the night with ‘Atari,’ originally released as a Hiatus Kaiyote song on Choose Your Weapon that she reimagined for her solo album, and was met with lots of applause and people singing along.
From chatting in line with people during the aforementioned hour and a half we waited beforehand, it was clear the crowd was filled with die-hard Hiatus Kaiyote fans, so I wondered if people would be as receptive to Nai Palm’s solo work. They definitely were. When she started to sing ‘Atoll’, the audience was more than happy to sing it back to her. People yelled and clapped appreciatively every minute or so, whenever she went on a particularly impressive vocal run or hit a challenging note.
She also interspersed some impressive covers, including David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar,’ which ended up on Needle Paw, and Aretha Franklin’s ‘Master of Eyes.’ Having the balls to cover Aretha Franklin in the first place is no easy feat, and doing her work justice is even harder. Nai Palm, however, is not afraid to take vocal risks. She told the audience by acknowledging multiple songs that she says she “always fucks up.” As an observer, though, this was far from the truth, and the occasional roughness of her voice only served to make her performance more interesting.