Live Review: Liv.e & Obongjayar @ The Forum

16 June 2023 | 2:47 pm | Guido Farnell

Liv.e, Obongjayar, and Elle Shimada took to The Forum stage this past weekend to deliver a spellbinding show.

Obongjayar | Photo Credit: Izzie Austin

Obongjayar | Photo Credit: Izzie Austin (Supplied)

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The vivacious Elle Shimada opened the evening with her signature beats and violin sounds. Playing tunes off her debut album Home ≠ Location, Shimada layers atmospheric swells of sound, dreamy sweet vocals and introspective melodies played on her violin against a backdrop of hard angular explosions of electronic noise and thumping beats. The bass is brutal, and the vibrations it set off could be felt outside the Forum when we arrived. Inside the Forum, it dominated almost everything else that was going on in the mix. Shimada thrilled the small but gathering crowd. 

Photo Credit: Izzie Austin

Liv.e a high-spirited neo-soul warrior of sorts, confounded expectation with plenty of inner-city sass, funk and attitude. Unless you were really paying attention, the pandemic saw her 2020 debut fly a little below the radar, but she is now ready to roar with this year’s album, Girl In The Half Pearl. In all its distorted glory, Liv.e dealt a set of pure chaos. ‘My name is Liv.e” she screamed, giving everyone a lesson in how to pronounce her name. A keyboard player, drummer on an ‘electro-acoustic’ kit and Liv.e on a laptop focused on producing a lo-fi psychedelic sound that freely took R&B, hip-hop and jazz elements and mashed it all up with hyperactive broken beats. Its heavy, intense, familiar elements are seemingly reborn into something fresh and new. 

Adding her incredibly powerful vocals, distorted through a myriad of effects, takes her in-your-face approach next level. The hooks are there, but Liv.e makes listeners work to find them. Lyrically, Liv.e’s preferred mode seems to be a casual stream of consciousness that coos about love and puts out a highly personalised and candid view of the world all before melting down into primal rage that screams its way through the mix. It's an idiosyncratic approach but totally relatable because most of us are living through similar. “I feel like y’all are bullying me," she said, a little taken back by a quiet audience. Liv.e was on fire tonight as she pounded the crowd with her tunes. It's easy to see why Erykah Badu counts herself as a fan.

Photo Credit: Izzie Austin

Keen to connect with the crowd, Obongjayar and his band present with a more affable attitude. His tunes are a melange of afrobeat, hip hop and soul, all gone a little pop. Much like Shimada and Liv.e the synths provide the mix with a noisy industrial grind. Whilst Obongjayar clearly likes to experiment with his music, the overall vibe feels very organic. There are a few eye rolls in the crowd when he announced that this is not a performance but a spiritual dance. It draws cheers from fans, but more importantly, the non-believers are drawn in after a few tunes. Much like Shimada, Obongjayar’s lyrics are drawn from the experience of being part of the Nigerian diaspora living in London. Cultural heritage features as much as anything he has learned in the big smoke. His performance is earnest, and it's obvious that Obongjayar’s heart and soul is clearly in these songs. 

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Photo Credit: Izzie Austin 

Showcasing tunes from Some Nights I Dream Of Doors with the distinctive husk of his voice, Obongjayar peppers personal observation with more political thoughts. Of course, the ladies swooned when he took off his vest and performed shirtless. The new single Just Cool featured late in the set, and the instantly likeable hooks and beats with plenty of bounce were pure feelgood pop confection. It is not far off Pharrell Williams and stands apart from the heartfelt sincerity of Some Nights I Dream Of Doors. It will be interesting to see if Obongjayar has more of this in store for his fans. When he acknowledged fans flown in from Singapore for this gig, it is evident that his first shows in Australia are a big deal for him. Much like Liv.e, Obongjayar’s star is rising.