Written by Alisha Acquaye
As I stood in the crowd waiting for the sultry songstress to bless the stage, I chatted with a beautiful friend of mine about unsatisfying male encounters, bad music and the opportunistic personality of New York City. We stood in a sea of devoted and patient fans: some white hipsters bobbing their head to the hip-hop vibrating in the venue, couples cuddling close and swaying to the beat, black women decorated in makeup and fancy hairstyles. The room was dark with sprinkles of blue, purple and pink lights. My friend and I laughed at the complexity of life while in the back of my mind I wondered when Yuna would appear on stage.
When she finally did, it was worth the wait. Draped out in a white blouse, high-waisted, wide-leg white pants and a long, loose, pale gold jacket, she looked like a gentle butterfly with rested wings. Her headwrap was impressively styled: a dusty grey-blue cloth twisted along the side of her neck like a long braid. She’s always more breathtaking in person, and I was smitten by her large oval eyes as she scanned the crowd.
Yuna's opening song was a cover of "Sorry", which was the perfect foreplay for the lovely music she made that night. It was also something we desperately needed - with the sweet aftertaste of Beyonce's “Lemonade” lingering in our mouths, Yuna's melo rendition quenched our thirsts and opened our ears to a new version of the bouncy, carefree track.
That night she played us songs we all love and yearned for - "Mountains", "Lullabies" and "Lights and Camera" - and introduced us to new tracks that await us on her upcoming album, “Chapters”. One of the soon-to-be released songs, "All I Do", about missing a lover after breaking up, was performed with such grace and vulnerability that I wasn't surprised to see Yuna's eyes well up with tears upon the song's end.
There were several moments similar to this throughout the night, where I was pleased to find Yuna taking off her cool. She bounced along playfully as DJ Premier mixed "Places to Go". I saw flickers of swagger in her hand choreography as she sang, reminding me of a rapper pointing at an imaginary friend as he spits. She raised her arm to the sky when she belted, bending and curving her hand and fingers like a landing bird as she held her high notes. You should leave a live show feeling closer to the performer you took the time out to see. After watching Yuna live (for the second time) I can say that I know her, and her lyrics, more intimately.
Along with her soulful yet swagged out live band, the electric energy in the Highline Ballroom was undeniable. The awestruck audience froze in anticipation during the silent moments between songs. All we wanted was to continue drinking in her essence. She knew this, and joked about it - “Gosh, you guys are so quiet!” We laughed, but we knew it was true.
For me, the highlights were the songs that I hold close to my heart, and the ones that I had taken for granted. I was drowned with nostalgia as she sang "Escape", the self-loving song about following one’s wanderlust, because it served as my soundtrack while I traveled in Southeast Asia. Conversely, I found a new appreciation for "I Want You Back", a song about realizing you mistakenly let a lover go. Who hasn’t let someone special go, only to regret it moments later? And finally, I thought it was impossible to love "Crush" more than I already do, but I was wrong. I became even more infatuated with the romantic ballad after Yuna melted our hearts with the live version. Of course, Usher couldn’t be there, but she absolutely annihilated his verse with her smooth, airy vocals.
She closed her show with "Live Your Life", my personal YOLO anthem, and I smiled ear to ear as my heart slowly sank. I was so wrapped up in her voice that I didn’t notice the time flying by. With her, I had forgotten that my overstuffed bag was ripping my shoulder apart, that my Converses were hurting my feet, that the vegan dinner I had a couple hours before was wearing off. I could listen to Yuna sing all day, and only my heart would feel a thing.
(I highly recommend you check out BAE during her Chapters tour this summer)