SRSQ & Riki at Audio, 26/05/22
Photo credit: Barry Douglas
In the midst of an ongoing global pandemic when artists are still having to either reschedule or cancel their tour dates altogether, being able to enjoy your favourite music live feels like a luxury now more than ever before. In this case, it’s been two long years since I’ve waited to see SRSQ return to my home city again for a rescheduled headline gig at Glasgow’s Audio, and with fellow Dais Records sensation Riki also featuring in the line-up, tonight’s show is something I wouldn’t miss for the world.
Making her debut appearance in Scotland, enigmatic Riki (AKA Niff Nawor) kicks off the show with flair. Having cut her teeth in her local deathrock and anarcho-punk scene, the L.A. based artist has since reinvented herself as a new romantic icon, and to say that she is something of a shapeshifter and time traveller would be an understatement. Sporting a pixie mullet cut, a trench coat and leather gloves, her style and sound are both about as authentic as 80s revival gets, and while she’s the only support act of the night, in this instance it’s a matter of quality over quantity. Commanding the stage with her own razor-sharp choreography and occasionally breaking out into a glowing smile, her music meanwhile has a chameleon-like tendency to draw on a range of influences including glam synthpop and italo disco, but she’s by no means a one trick pony – whereas ‘Last Summer’ lies somewhere between Bananarama and The Fixx, ‘Come Inside’ meanwhile has a touch of Leftfield to it that’s hypnotic. What’s more, she delivers ‘Strohmann’ and ‘Porque Te Vas’ with such eloquence you could be forgiven for thinking German and Spanish are her actual native languages.
Other than striking visual elements, the main thing that stands out with Riki is her voice thanks to its deep, husky tone and flawless precision, even if it does come across somewhat unvaried and lacking in conviction at times. That said, she makes sure you feel the emotion behind ‘Know’ in your bones, and she definitely comes into her own during tracks like ‘Sonar, ‘Lo’ and ‘Napoleon’ – the latter featuring a magical melodica solo which is an absolute highlight. It’s surprising not to hear ‘Florence and Selena’ included in the setlist in all its saxophone glory, but by the time Riki finishes her set she nonetheless leaves us feeling like all our 80s nostalgia dreams have come true.
Wearing her trademark leopard print, winged eyeliner and classic dead-pan expression, SRSQ (AKA Kennedy Ashlyn) needs no introduction when she hits the stage. I first saw her supporting Drab Majesty in 2019 and she totally stole the show for me, so to see her headlining for a change is a welcome development. Her headlining isn’t the only change, either – no longer flying solo, SRSQ now performs as a three piece onstage accompanied by bassist Mark and guitarist Angel, and she’s swapped out her synthesizer for a guitar as her main instrument of choice. As the trio launch into her recent singles ‘Someday I Will Bask Forever’ and ‘Saved for Summer’ from her new album Ever Crashing, it’s easy to see why as these new guitar-based songs appear to be a throwback to Kennedy’s roots from her days in shoegaze duo Them Are Us Too. Still, old favourites from her debut Unreality continue to stand out in their own right thanks to the familiar warm sound of ‘Cherish’ and the fact that ‘The Martyr’ remains just as heart-breaking as ever.
Line-up changes aside, there’s something else different about this particular performance compared to the last one. Apart from her music, one of the things I remembered SRSQ most for from her 2019 set was how much she charmed the crowd and made us laugh, but she’s a woman of few words tonight, perhaps in part due to her having intentionally adopted more self-restraint while performing given the heavy personal nature of most of her songs. At some point she mentions something about having had too much fun the other night (hey, we’ve all been there), but other than that the only other time she really addresses the crowd is to introduce her fellow band members Mark and Angel.
Maybe it’s the outcome of said fun from the other night that makes her less chatty this time around or the gruelling effects of touring, but either way she saves her breath for what she does best. Despite the fact that the volume of the music coming out of the speakers would be enough to drown out most vocalists, Kennedy goes on to prove that it’s virtually impossible to completely drown out a powerhouse like her, and it’s equally impossible not to be starstruck at the sheer life force coming out of her lungs or the dramatic facial expressions that go with it.
Getting to hear tracks from the new album is a serious treat too. Each song seems to create a ripple effect of emotion in its own way, but ‘Used to Love Me’ is definitely a personal favourite as multicolour static visuals play out in the background. ‘Ever Crashing’ very much deserves its place as title-track as well, its chorus repeating endlessly as Kennedy candidly describes her experience of what it feels like to live with bipolar disorder. Mark remains in the zone throughout it all, and when she’s not mouthing the words to every song, Angel draws on her vape, creating a mist that adds to the all-around hazy feeling.
It’s a shame this gig didn’t take place in a venue better suited to its sound to be honest, because overall it somehow felt like the energy waxed and waned a little without ever reaching its full potential. SRSQ’s last show in Glasgow felt a lot less guarded as well, though that’s not to say she didn’t still manage to capture every heart in the room anyway with the help of her new dream team, because she did. All in all, it may have been a bit different to what I was expecting, but it just goes to show that it's the dawn of a new era for SRSQ as she embraces new possibilities. As for the new album, her songs still manage to somehow crush your spirits and lift them in one fell swoop, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance
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