Despite the ominous weather reports with a warning to avoid all travel over the weekend, brave punters arrived in the Melbourne CBD to find it as dry as a bone. If a storm did happen to pass by at that time, the one happening inside Max Watts was much more breathtaking to behold.
Holding on to her own, Nai walked on stage giving cuddles to her support Dj Maria before continuing forward with a straight spine, relaxed shoulders, and a commanding walk, coupled with the signature sound of the heavy metallic jingle of her ear jewels bleeding into the microphone pick up as she approached. She declared the hometown show particularly special as it was “the city that made us”.
Thankful that my eardrums didn’t blow out from the crowd cheering in between her serenading moments, it was possible to enjoy the emotional musicality of Nai Palm. With nothing more than her voice, her Gibson Flying V electric guitar (Named after Michael Jackson, in case you wondering) and her backing vocalists – Lorri, Jace XL and Nap King Cole – they were able to re-enact the magic sparsity of the record.
Signature to Nai, her vocal acrobatics were not in short supply, neither was the regular modulation of keys with an apathetic flick of her hair. My favorite part of her delivery was the rhythmic syncopation delivered with her fricatives and plosives, which aren’t necessarily used to articulate lyrics the way your average joe would. Regardless of how talented she is technically; the choices she makes are always emotionally influenced.
The record itself features stripped back, vocally driven reworks from Hiatus Kaiyote’s 2015 album Choose Your Weapon, which materialized similarly in the show; Atari, Borderline With My Atoms, Breathing Underwater to name a few, along with the newer additions to her repertoire; Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland), and Crossfire/Into you. In this way, Nai proves that the core of her music lies within her most powerful and spellbinding instrument; the human voice. And that you don’t need a huge band to make an impact. Additionally, that each songs’ integral structure remains relevant regardless of whether space is filled with silence or synths of Hiatus.
She shared not just her song but sentiments that tie her to her craft. Stories of the people she loves, the spirituality of playing in Jimi Hendrix’s house, the legacy of Prince, and her ideas of the universe. Most importantly she reveals a picture sitting at the base of her microphone, a moon-faced baby that is most certainly her muse.
Like the most well thought out performances, the energy flowed in troughs and peaks; savoring moments of intensity and vulnerability in equal share. Personally, I perceived the show’s focus to be the art of self-love, via connecting with yourself on a spiritual level – which she presents a wholehearted example of in Homebody – as she asks us to set aside our fears of love. She has previously described the “purest offering…a sanctuary to lick your wounds…without acrobatics”.
Nai tells listeners her truth with genuine transparency, and when you experience a performance with that kind of raw honesty, it’s pretty hard not to be pulled in to her sphere and narrative. All four corners of the emotional spectrum had been explored in this performance and there was something to take for everyone.
I read in an interview once with Nai saying that she wanted to extend the idea of writing love songs to her friends, that love extends beyond romance and endures in it’s own special way. In saying that- it felt to be a powerful choice that she chose to leave her lady love song till last, landing the spaceship with Nakamarra.