Live review: Anohni at The Barbican, London, 8.7.

 Photo: Mark Allan / Barbican

Photo: Mark Allan / Barbican

9/10

Just over halfway through the year, it's already safe to say that Anohni's Hopelessness is one of the best releases of 2016. Without question, it is also amongst the most powerful, emotional and harrowing, and this atmosphere is strongly present at her audiovisual performance at London's Barbican. 

As the lights flash quickly to Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never's blasting, thundering dance beat resounding in the hall, the show fills your senses to the brim. Gradually, the gripping visuals, hard-hitting lyrics and Anohni's soulful voice push you over the edge, with the audience almost collectively bringing their hands to the corners of their eyes. 

The concert starts with a video of Naomi Campbell (also featured on the video to 'Drone Bomb Me' below) dancing in an empty warehouse for 20 minutes, which feels uncomfortably long - though the show was never meant to be comfortable. After the intro, the visuals consist of a number of people (mainly artists known for their work surrounding feminism) lip-syncing, often with sorrow, tears and anger almost palpable, to the songs covering ecocide, war and mass surveillance. Anohni, on the other hand, displays no emotion beyond her voice, and is covered in a robe and veil, hiding any expressions and walking across the stage like a ghost. This understated performance is used to place more emphasis on specific parts; she puts up her hands dramatically during 'Watch Me', kneels towards the screen to sing "I'm gonna hate you, my god" during the unreleased 'Ricochet' and drags the mic stand behind her like a burden during 'Obama'. What's most disturbing is Anohni's joyous dancing to 'Execution', 'Jesus Will Kill You' and the repeated "I'm sorry" of 'Crisis', when the atmosphere is the complete opposite and leaves you frozen, almost catatonic.

 Photo: Mark Allan / Barbican

Photo: Mark Allan / Barbican

It is 'I Don't Love You Anymore' that seems to first take the show from a performance to something much more bare, with Anohni's own, exhaustion- and anger-filled eyes on the screen. This intimacy intensifies towards the end: while her voice seems to flow out of her effortlessly without error, you can hear her breathing during 'Crisis' which adds a further element of closeness to the song, whether intended or not. This feeling continues on to 'Violent Men' and 'In My Dreams', the latter of which sees Anohni on the screen again, this time more identifiable. While these could be classed as the high points of the concert, the intensity and emotion has been present throughout the night. Combined with the faultless performance of each piece, the audience are left breathless.

Following the distressing 'Drone Bomb Me', which finishes the show, the screen portrays an elderly aboriginal woman wondering about how the world could be made a better place to live: "We are wondering what happened to the world, everything is going upside down". There is no answer, no consolation, but the anger and sadness we have seen throughout the concert don't leave us hopeless; we haven't become immune to the hurt.

SETLIST

1. Hopelessness
2. 4 Degrees
3. Watch Me
4. Paradise
5. Execution
6. Ricochet
7. I Don't Love You Anymore
8. Obama
9. Violent Men
10. Why Did You Separate Me From The Earth?
11. Jesus Will Kill You
12. Crisis
13. Indian Girls
14. Marrow
15. In My Dreams
16. Drone Bomb Me