Glancing wistfully at the audience, behind pert white lashes, standing with iconic bravado in front of a glowing ethereal cube…what thoughts permeate a showman’s mind before unleashing what lies beneath upon an unsuspecting audience? Was she contemplating the width of a deranged underpanted man’s girth? Or was her brain bombarded by irritating images of the omnipresent meerkat? That singular moment when the performer steps onstage is met with similar mystery by the audience member. What state is the act going to be in? Will it be enough to cleanse that god-awful warm up DJ from our collective minds?
“Love, the kind that kills and scars,” purrs a sensual vital Jonna, during the opening “O”, as she springs to life. Entirely void of self-consciousness or meerkats. And, yes, from the moment she stepped onstage: she was there. A trait perhaps all too rare in the ‘LOLKIDZ’ generation of contemporary performers: that instant connection with the internal fountain of one’s art. What might have seemed slower “warm up” songs were clearly more for the audiences benefit: we were being acclimatised to them.
This was one of the initial strengths of the gig: the fans. A built-in cluster of approval. An energy clearly reciprocated and appreciated by the astute performer. Not every artist could balance sensitivity and generous inclusiveness towards their audience whilst in the throes of performing, coming back to expose more of herself to adoring fans disappointed with not being touched the first time around. Memorable moments including a fan-made tin foil crown placed atop her waiting head during “T”, and the all too comically ironic “bounty bar” which somehow managed to find its way to the singer, to the hilarity of the crowd. And yet, therein laid perhaps the greatest challenge the performers faced, these people knew what the songs were about: there would be no fooling them. And only the most animate passion would be able to give further life to them.
However, here lies the greatest success of the London gig. Each song became a triumph of poetic spontaneity. If there was a set piece for each dance, it was mixed in with enough raw emotion and audience awareness to make them entities entirely their own. It was impossible not to feel shivers down one’s spine at the opening drum beats of “John”, nor get carried away to the uproarious crescendo of “Clump”. The diversity of songs, sounds and therefore emotions explored also spoke to the strength of the act. The dark brooding beats and resulting exorcistic performance of “Play”, evoking something of the internal darkness so many of us face along our own journeys.
Never was this balance more perfectly and subtly evoked than in the majestic existential anthem “Y”. Artist and audience coming together in a moment of rare clarity and solidarity to the solemn profundity of the searing electronic beats and lyrics, at once both bitingly harsh and refreshingly insightful. Perhaps this is the true genius of the Iamamiwhoami experiment: the ability to pack so much darkness, existential angst and emotional complexity into an accessible and entertaining package; appreciated and experienced on many different levels. Ultimately the result was the same as with any great artist: love…but it certainly wasn’t the kind the killed, or scarred.
*the fateful words which began Iamamiwhoami’s long anticipated return to the London stage.