Getting 2 On with Tinashe - Review Festival Gardens 19/02/2015
What do you do with a song with a two minute guitar solo when you have no backing band? Tinashe's answer to her 'Bet' problem: Give one of your dancers a tap-dance showcase. You read that right: 'tappa, tappa, tappa'.
And it was awesome. It could be the most over tap's been in Perth since the swingin' 50s, or at least some largely ignored Fringe show. With a spare set-up of one drummer, a loud as fuck backing track and four dancers split over the two sexes Tinashe delivered a wild show that felt as alive as any ten-piece orchestra.
In 2014, bolstered by the DJ Mustard produced, Schoolboy Q assisted summer hit '2 On', Tinashe's debut album Aquarius converted the esoteric cloud RnB aesthetic she mined on her earlier bedroom mixtapes into a sleeper mainstream success. Even if Aquarius is accessible, '2 On' aside, it's often wispy. Tinashe, sounding literally lithe, wades through a mist of hazy weed smoke, ambiance and jittery syncopated beats, not exactly festival fodder. It's an audio profile that sometimes risks falling into the “Mya trap” – so named for the 'Case of the Ex' singer – where you risk being background in your own hits. Not this girl though, by God she turn her material up to 11.
Even at her short stature, with her aggressive dancing, two-toned hoodie, full self-confidence and taut stomach, Tinashe conjures a range of different reference points – Janet, Aaliyah, Usher, Yolandi Vi$$er, the 'You & Me' video among others – to emerge as possibly the most sexually powerful performer of the new young RnB generation, give or take a Tink. Running through a collection of old tracks and bonus cuts, starting with 'Vulnerable' (“Don't stop lookin' at me x8”), Tinashe cast a spell-binding presence even before she launched into tracks from her debut album.
It makes no sense to pick out specific highlights of such a heavily crafted and all-energy show, maybe the bedroom anthem 'How Many Times' or the head-nodding 'Watch Me Work'. The diminutive Tinashe's power came through fully on the Lil' Jon-in-slomo banger 'All Hands on Deck' (produced by Cashmere Cat), before leaving the stage for her dancers and drummer to steal the spotlight on a mental cover of 'Turn Down for What?'. The only real misstep may have been an overly dramatised mood-breaking run-through of 'Bated Breath' a sort of power ballad that loses much of its allure without the intricacies a live band can provide.
All that was left after was an extended version of the radio hit '2 On'. Hyper-powered with the full lyrical force of the floor of the Gardens, Tinashe completely shined, repeating the wicked bridge “just gimme the trees so we can smoke it yeah/just gimme the drink so we can pour it yeah” to each minute section of the crowd, showing that she was having as much fun as the audience beyond.
Tinashe is a performer arriving in Perth at the right time, enough mixtapes and albums behind her to have a distinct sound and charisma, but without any impression of being jaded or formulaic. Amidst the traditional malaise of dull indie rockers and psych jammers that seem overrepresented in these parts it's a joy to get a performer so intensely focused on having fun and transmitting that joy, sensuality and excitement to her audience. Long live the female RnB superstar.