The long-awaited return of Rina Sawayama to the live stage after a three-year break was nothing short of breathtaking, and enjoyable until the very last second. The singer-songwriter released her debut album, “SAWAYAMA”, in April of 2020 amidst worldwide lockdowns. The album was incredibly well received, earning Rina a nomination for the BRITs Rising Star Award along with widespread critical acclaim. Having collaborated with artists such as Charli XCX, Lady Gaga and Sir Elton John, the sky was the limit for her Dynasty tour, and it delivered everything fans needed and more.
Preceding Rina’s show was an upbeat, energizing set from alternative RnB singer and producer Ama Jones, followed by an ethereal performance from synth-pop artist HANA. Accompanied by guitarist Vic Jamieson and drummer Simone Odaranile, Sawayama started the show with the album’s introductory track “Dynasty”, a striking rock track about the singer’s generational trauma; their performance of this song was fundamentally perfect and set the scene for an unforgettable event.
Following “Dynasty” was “STFU!”, a nu-metal track about the singer’s experiences with racism. This track truly exemplifies both Rina’s versatility as a performer, and the sheer range of her discography; not many artists would be able to seamlessly link rock, nu-metal, hyper-pop, indie pop and club music, but Rina Sawayama can, and she does so flawlessly.
“Snakeskin” serves as the final track of the record, but Rina performed this fifth. An EDM-inspired track, “Snakeskin” was a clear highlight – Sawayama’s vocals in this song were some of the best of the night, and the accompanying fluorescent green lights show was nothing short of stunning.
Following a short interlude, Sawayama played “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome”, the standout single from her debut extended play, “RINA”. This was another highlight of the evening – the gradual buildup of instruments throughout the song was immaculate, and the climax of the song was accompanied by a stunning high note. This was succeeded by some captivating stage banter, as Rina asked the crowd “Have you ever misbehaved?”, leading into “Paradisin’”, an arcade-music-inspired pop song about the singer’s rebellious experiences as a teenager. This was undoubtedly one of the bubblier aspects of the set, with Sawayama using a toy saxophone to mime the exuberant solo at the bridge of the song.
After another short interlude, Rina performed “Who’s Gonna Save U Now?”; a heavy, vengeful rock track that served as the exposition to the latter section of “Sawayama”, this song is reflective of the planet’s retribution for humanity’s selfish and wasteful acts. “You burned the bridges and drained the rivers; I can’t forgive you like I did before”.
The main set’s penultimate song was “Chosen Family”, a touching ballad addressed to Rina’s LGBTQ+ fans, stating that regardless of their DNA, they are her “chosen family”. The performance of this song was deeply heartfelt and profound, with it being almost exclusively acoustic. This was then succeeded by a performance of her 2018 single “Cherry”, a bubbly pop song about the singer’s realization of her pansexuality. Again, the lights for this segment were remarkable, illuminating the stage with the vibrant colours of the pride flag. This instantly left the fans wanting more; a chant of Rina’s name ensued until she appeared from backstage once more to deliver an encore, kicking it off with “XS”.
The standout single from “Sawayama” - a pop/RnB jam reminiscent of early Britney Spears music (with thrilling stabs of electric guitar scattered throughout), “XS” is a song about the needless greed and opulence of late-stage capitalism, and places Sawayama in the shoes of a wealthy person who wants “more, more, more, more!”. This was flat out remarkable, with the choreography, vocals and instrumentals all at their best.
Concluding with a performance of Lady Gaga’s “Free Woman”, the entire evening was beyond flawless. Though I had initially thought my experience of hearing Rina’s music for the first time was to be unmatched, the sheer spectacle of this concert proved me very wrong.
An awesome marvel several years in the making, the Dynasty Tour left me in awe of Rina Sawayama’s talent, and I, for one, cannot wait to see what she does next.