Arts

Alina Baraz and JMSN light up First Avenue

The energy of a live music performance is hard to find anywhere else. The bouncing of sound waves against the walls and the crowd dancing on the floor can be contagious—it can have the power to even make someone unfamiliar with a band’s music an instant fan. It is rare for this liveliness to begin before the music does. Last Tuesday night, the dedicated fans of Alina Baraz made that happen.

With a style described as a fusion of R&B and slow electronica and her new album, The Color of You, under her belt, Alina Baraz owned the stage at Minneapolis’ First Avenue as if she, herself, were an entire band. The band, backing her crystal-clear voice, was almost hidden on an elevated platform at the back of the stage, so those at the front of the crowd could only see her and the incredible dancer that joined her. The cheering was so ceaselessly loud that someone walking by the venue would have assumed that the show started an hour before it did.

Veteran alternative-meets-R&B trio JMSN (read as ‘Jameson’) have released five albums since 2012 and are touring to promote their newest release, Velvet. They preceded Baraz with a brief but lively seven-song set, including fan-favorites “Addicted,” “Drinkin’” and “Most of All.” The front man, Christian Berishaj, provided no introduction to any of his songs and barely paused to introduce himself and the two men that backed him up on vocals, guitar and drums. That being said, nothing about his half-hour set felt rushed when Berishaj was singing into the mic.

With or without a guitar slung over his shoulder, Berishaj’s passion for musical performance was clear in his movements, his facial expressions and the way he made Baraz’s crowd feel. If her fans had never heard his music before, there was no telling the difference. Ending with the popular “Cruel Intentions,” the climactic high notes Berishaj hit evoked an almost gospel feeling. The crowd cheered so adamantly for the band as the song concluded that the curtain that was falling over the stage stopped midway so the trio could take an additional bow for their cheering new fans.

These cheers did not stop until the lights dimmed for Baraz to take the stage over twenty minutes later. The sounds of the curtain rising were accompanied by repeated chants of “A-Li-Na” and screams from every corner of the venue. Her dancer, who she later told the incredibly-enthusiastic crowd was named Felicia, kicked off the set by moving under a set of strobe lights, from which Baraz emerged about a minute later. The audience’s welcome to her was so deafening, the first moments of her first song, “Show Me,” were lost. Neither she nor her fans seemed to mind: everyone was already having a great time.

Alina Baraz performs at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Photo by Betsy Barthelemy ’21

For the rest of the set, Alina and Felicia had their movements down to a science. Neither left the stage for more than thirty seconds at a time and neither lost steam. There were moments in which they danced in sync and some when they interacted. For the most part, Felicia was there to embrace the energy the crowd fed the duo, add her spin to her counterpart’s lyrics and act as a hype-woman, as if one was needed. The two of them were fueled by the crowd and the crowd was in turn fortified by their performances. This synergy became the characteristic of the experience.

Baraz continued with The Color of You hits “Fallin” and “High,” as well as staples “Make You Feel” and “Fantasy” from her first album Urban Flora, a collaboration with Danish electronic artist Galimatias. She frequently paused to thank the crowd for their eclectic energy.

“I want to thank everyone who has supported me from the beginning,” she called out to the masses, introducing Urban Flora’s “Can I” as the first song she’d ever written. Urban Flora is an incredible example of the modern music industry—a cross-continental collaboration originally released on Bandcamp—which, after skyrocketing in popularity, allowed Baraz to tour with Coldplay and release the solo LP The Color of You. Baraz represents not only the pioneering electronica genre, but also music that is built on fan support made accessible by free streaming.

Her adoring fans illustrated that characteristic excitement as they danced and shouted to the point that they drowned out Baraz’s voice, and it was difficult to hear her, although nobody seemed to mind.

She thanked the crowd, her band, Felicia and the event staff.

“Just, everyone who made this happen,” she said, gesturing out to the iconic venue’s walls. “Minneapolis, you are amazing. I truly feel the love in this room tonight.”

She concluded her set with The Color of You’s “Floating,” a hit which usually features Khalid, in an almost acoustic setting. Finally, the crowd was forced to quiet down, but their energy was still tangible as Baraz moved across the stage. She left, almost as if taunting an encore, but barely lasted a minute before the room roared for her once more. Felicia by her side, Baraz fired the crowd up with “Electric,” including a show of yellow strobe lights that let everyone know that the finale was coming. Felicia bowed and left at its finish, but Baraz had one more treat in store.

Crouching down so she could see the faces of the crowd under the bright stage lights, she sang “Yours” directly to the crowd. Though a song about a relationship that doesn’t work out, the lyric “something ‘bout you is so healing” rang true to her effect on the crowd below her, and them on her. Alina Baraz’s concert is an experience in modern live music—genuine musical talent, excellent stage presence and an incredible crowd.

Contributing Writer

Betsy Barthelemy '21 (she/her/hers) is a prospective English major from Evanston, Illinois and a contributing writer for the arts column. Though not much of an athlete herself, she also (almost) comprehends baseball and is an avid Cubs fan.

October 11, 2018

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