Fresh of the high of releasing her debut, Malaysian singer Yuna took the stage at S.O.B.'s on April 26th to a crowd of friends and fans alike, including NYC radio station Hot 97's own Miss Info. It was a part of a showcase that the radio station had put together to celebrate the singer, and Yuna graciously accepted the honor and opportunity.
But, before she took the stage, it was her opener Nikkiya's time to shine. While it was obvious that Nikkiya and Yuna's audiences probably wouldn't merge, Nikkiya still gave the crowd a show. Performing tracks from her album, Speakher, cards for which were passed out throughout the night, Nikkiya repped hard for alt-R&B. Songs like "Love Machine" and "Titanic" showed that she could hold her own, while the "All My Wildest Dreams"-sampling "Sailing Away" was refreshing. There were a few missteps during her show, however. Singing over tracks, coupled with other sound issues, made it difficult to distinguish Nikkiya's voice. Also, her attempt to mimic Kelis' angry anthem "Caught Out There" with her song "Cheater," in which she encourages the ladies to throw their cheating men in a trunk, was more grating than cutting edge.
After a heartfelt and admiring intro from Miss Info, Yuna took the stage, rocking a multicolored shirt and head wrap, tights and hot pink platforms. She opened with "Lullabies," one of the 12 alt-pop tracks from her self-titled debut. With only her and her lone keyboardist/backup musician, she made the song sound as lush and lovely as it did on record. The same could be said about "Bad Idea," which she accidentally introduced as another song in a cutely flustered way before correcting herself. With a bit of an island lilt to it, Yuna's ukulele playing fit right in with the song as she sang about a love that seems wrong but feels right.
She followed with "Island," which, unlike "Bad Idea," doesn't actually have an island-flavored sound. Instead, it felt like a throwback to the '90's pop stylings of a Natalie Imbruglia (or Merchant, take your pick) with its well-written lyrics and haunting harmonies. It was a great lead-in to "Decorate" from her EP of the same name and then the folky twang of Yuna's "Remember My Name." "Remember," on which she had the audience assist with a few hand claps, was again reminiscent of some of the best of '90's pop, this time channeling singers like Paula Cole or Shawn Colvin.
She ended the short but definitely sweet set with single "Live Your Life." The Pharrell-produced song got a bit of a change-up live, with the guitar line taking more of a prominent role than before. After jamming out to the track, which was easily the highlight of the night, Yuna bid the audience adieu and walked off the stage into a crowd that was all too eager to congratulate the singer and ask for the autograph of the sure-to-be-star.
[Photos: Sean J. Rhinehart]