It was easy for us to see how NAO finds genuine joy in performing her music after we caught her recent performance at San Francisco’s Social Hall this past week. The British singer/songwriter, whose debut album For All We Know dropped in July, was acutely aware of her audience at all times. She struck elegant and fierce poses throughout the night, and created a large presence on the venue’s intimate stage. Her audience, young and lively, couldn’t help but dance to her blend of pop and soulful tunes. Her vocal style reminded us of Little Dragon, a bit of Janelle Monáe and even a dash of Prince. NAO is undoubtedly a mesh of different decades rolled into one identifiable sound — when you hear a NAO song, you know it’s hers.
NAO (pronounced Nay-o) is unique in that she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a professional songstress relatively later in life (that is, in comparison to her contemporaries). Her electric performance proved that her change of course stemmed from a genuine love for her music, the stage, and her fans. Though striking on stage, NAO is equally down-to-earth with a relatable personality. After performing “Fool to Love” — Sorry, but I’m leaving you my friend/You don’t own me/On back and teasing me again– she explained how the song was not about love gone awry, but about that devil on one’s shoulder telling us to conform and and put our dreams past us, a feeling we’ve all felt and one that NAO was able to overcome.
One of our favorite performances of the night was for “In the Morning,” a hauntingly beautiful song about love being over. NAO slowly twirled on stage to the mellowed out track with both hands in the air, as if to encourage her audience to also let go as she once had of a former lover. Romantic and enticing, our night with NAO will not be forgotten. You can visit iTunes to support For All We Know here.
Words by Jacqueline Kelly.