Telling folks I’ be seeing Yuna on February 15 provided me blank stares and vacant nods. Saying it was at the Media Club didn’t help the situation: small venue, small band, right? No way. In two years this bird’s been on Kimmel, Conan, and Carson Daly. Her songs have been produced by Pharrell Williams and Chris Braide. I was just lucky to have a ticket.
Delicate and graceful, escorted by three giant men, Yuna entered the cheering sold out club. Onto the stage this lovely creature stepped and began the dreamy ballad “Coffee”, from her first international EP, Decorate. Her calming and buttery soft voice had everyone staring and absorbing. She’s arresting – beautiful – and how impressive her intonation is, one that would make grandma’s eyes brim.
There’s nothing special about the damp, dark, beer-soaked Media Club, but Yuna was adorned in gold and red, shimmer and sparkles, like a sequined rose against a mouldy backdrop. Her head-wrap and apparel were so hip-hop fashion forward that unless you already knew she was a Malaysian Muslim, you would never have known otherwise. Her clothing line is simple proof of her excellent taste.
The second song, “Falling”, really encompasses the fusion of sounds within her latest album, Nocturnal. The poppy, R&B, indie, roots blend greets some Malaysian beats in a catchy, stuck-in-your-head kind of way. She has incredible pitch control; it’s both euphonic and inspiring. Singing while stationary, Yuna draws out and conducts perfect notes with the tips of her dainty fingers. She is comfortable in her talent on stage; she is flirtatious and coy, her eyes providing a show of their own.
Her fourth song, “I’ll Take You Back”, had a John Legend, baby-making-on-the-rug vibe. Some dude on my right was grinding into his girl; the crowd was plugged in and undulating. When she began looping for her cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You”, the crowd lost it. This set list was a strategic pace-maker. The ratio of older songs to new songs was perfect. I’m a sucker for a good set list, and this was bang-on.
When she hit “Decorate”, from her first EP, and dressed herself in her guitar, I was reminded that before Conan, before Pharrell, she was a singer-songwriter. These lyrics had me hoping she’d deliver another EP before her next record. Yuna’s simple, relatable lyrics are thick with themes of love, heartbreak, and perseverance. Her potent positive message could mistakenly be viewed as weakness but may indeed be her selling point.
Yuna talked between all her of songs, which was a bit much for my liking, but difficult to depress. This was a room full of fans, and no one seemed unhappy with her unrehearsed chatter. Her kind biddings before “Escape”, and the ever considerate dedication of the song to all the cool cat Vancouverites who came out to support her, was the nail in the coffin of her good nature. Introducing her last song, “Brave”, Yuna said this next song was “about being brave and all the positive things.” Cute.
During “Escape”, she introduced her band of young blasé musicians who I had paid no mind to until then – Yuna stood alone for me. Considering this was her first headlining tour, I was impressed and equally encouraged by how rare it is to encounter an artist whose R&B content is both innocent and tenacious. She’s the kind of syrupy sweet you soak your chicken and waffles in. Sounds pretty good to me.