LIVE REVIEW: Nilüfer Yanya

Nilüfer Yanya

The Haunt, Brighton, 14 April 2019

Words and photos by Chloe Hashemi

I think you know when an artist is on the brink of something exciting. It was undeniable when I first saw Rag n’ Bone Man (in a 200 capacity room would you believe), and when I saw The Japanese House in a tiny church-like venue back in 2016. Watching Nilüfer Yanya perform her debut album at The Haunt the other night was one of those moments.

I was lucky enough to see Nilüfer even earlier on in her journey, last summer at the Thekla in Bristol, as part of the D2D Festival. She was the first act I saw that day and even though she only had a handful of songs in her back catalogue at that stage, she certainly made an impression. Fast forward 11 months, and the 23 year old already has some impressive feats under her belt. She’s featured on BBC’s ‘Sound of 2018’ longlist, been Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World and BBC Radio 6 Music’s ‘Album of the Day’ with her first album Miss Universe.

Although I had seen her live once before, nothing could have prepared me for the delight I experienced at The Haunt on Sunday night. Since last year, Nilüfer has obviously grown her set list, but she has also built up her band to include the most sultry saxophonist. This saxophone player is called Jazzi Bobbi and she was just phenomenal, and she totally elevated Nilüfer’s set- especially on tracks like Paradise and my personal favourite Thanks 4 Nothing.

The set at The Haunt didn’t come without it’s small hiccups, but all of which added to the feeling that this was a really special set. The first few songs were welcomed by an odd drilling/buzzing noise directly above the stage. In hindsight, this may sound irritating, but was actually an opportunity to allow Nilüfer to become more acquainted with the Brighton crowd. She cracked a joke about being ‘haunted’ at The Haunt and after that the noise seemed to ease off. Also, a few songs later, it came to light that Nilüfer was completely ignoring the setlist her and her band had taped at their feet. Again this discovery was endearingly revealed to the crowd and everyone shared a chuckle. These events may sound clunky but really loosened everyone up and added to the rawness of the performance. As Nilüfer has admitted in the past she is not a ‘natural performer’, these things eased the mood and really got the crowd on her side.

That being said, it was very apparent that Nilüfer felt a lot more comfortable expressing herself through song than speaking directly to the crowd. I personally don’t mind this, as after all, that’s why most of the crowd came to The Haunt that night, for the music. The ‘in-between-song-chat’ was kept to a minimum, Nilüfer only revealing small nuggets of information about herself and her music. She disclosed that Angels being her mum’s favourite track on the new record and that night was her first time performing with her new guitar, which she admitted was a ‘bit weird’.

I urge you to go and hear Nilüfer’s voice live for yourself. The husky and soulful quality of it is only that much more raw and powerful live. I often had to remind myself that she’s only 23. Her vocals sound so seasoned you’d think she’s been singing professionally for years and years. I’m so excited to see what’s in store for this young woman.

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