Caught Live: D∆WN @ Oslo Hackney, London
“Y’all look so good… I can’t see you,” a beaming Dawn Richard coyly informed an adoring throng of twenty-somethings at her headlining Oslo Hackney show. The electronic glamazon was referencing the way her avant-garde, veiled head piece obscured her vision, something she wore to adorn the chic, white pant suit she emerged onto the stage in – a look which, essentially, sums up Dawn’s entire distinctiveness.
Opening number “Wild n Young”, with its waving xylophone melodies and heartening lyrics (“They say our life was wasted, chasing our dreams – they were wrong”), established the evening’s ethos; if anybody doesn’t believe in you… fuck ‘em, and just keep striding towards your goals.
Unsurprisingly, Dawn fluently belted her way through the tightly-choreographed set list, a balanced blend of old and new material. Every song, ranging from “Black Lipstick” and “Faith” (both found on her debut Armor On EP), to the self-proclaimed ‘ratchet hoe’ jam “How I Get It” off the Infrared collection and bouncy Machinedrum-helmed single “Not Above That”, was an undeniable crowd-pleaser. The album of the night was, of course, November 2016’s Redemption, the third and final instalment to her applauded Hearts trilogy. “Yeah Yeah You Would”, a cut Dawn recorded during her stint with the Diddy-Dirty Money trio in 2010, was an unexpected surprise, and a pleasant reminder of how high she’s soared since the days of being Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs’s sidekick.
There was only one song which I didn’t recognize, but that’s not the point. The song was an excuse for Dawn’s foray into the crowd, where she interacted and held dance-offs with each crevice of the room. The segment climaxed with Dawn championing a group dance involving the entire audience, before sashaying back onto the stage. It was truly a wonderful moment of unity which helped purge everybody’s memories of the terrors from the last month; the delight from Dawn’s audience became vividly reminiscent of crowd shots at Ariana Grande’s recent One Love Manchester benefit concert. “Music will save us,” Dawn adamantly assured the rapturous crowd, before offering sincere condolences towards the victims of the Manchester and London attacks.
Dawn went on to perform an entire song with one calm and collected stan (‘Hearts’, as she affectionately labels them) who she politely dragged up on stage. Another, clad in two Dawn-branded shirts, literally bowed at the goddess’s feet. Their behavior reflected the special connection Dawn has with the lovingly loyal fan base she has built up, one which grows with every critically acclaimed addition to the technophile’s oeuvre.
The Oslo Hackney show was Dawn’s third headlining summer show in London; her first at Camden’s Jazz Café in 2015, where she endearingly shared that she thought “only two people were gonna show up”, was followed by last year’s spectacle at XOYO. I’ve noticed that her London shows always seem to bookmark significant growth in Dawn’s career; every time she comes back, more buds in her career have blossomed. The lyric “they slept on the rise up” from the bass banging “Lazarus” never resounded as pertinently as it did that night. Who knows what Dawn will have achieved by this time next year?
It was the third time Dawn certified to me that she is a phenomenal performer, who has irrefutably mastered the art of commanding every inch of her self-created stage. Dawn’s physical and spiritual presence confirmed that the meandering path to glory is one that can be navigated, but only with unbreakable resilience. Besides, Dawn has an arsenal of mind-blowing bops to soundtrack that journey.