Two dudes, more specifically guitarist Luke Saunders and drummer Alistair Wilkinson, entered the dark blue stage and began playing a subtle beat. After a not-so-long wait, Shura
made a modestly low-key entrance, wearing a casual aqua blue beanie and an oversized denim jacket as she makes her way to the middle, behind the comfort of her synth and sample pads. She shouted with glee and thanked the crowd for being there and then immediately dove into the bouncy title track off of her debut album, "Nothing's Real." Although the track is actually about being trapped in a hospital after having an anxiety attack, it's a pop anthem laced with Madonna moments and theatrical melodies. Watching someone who looked like a grungy Kurt Cobain make bubblegum pop as good as this was compelling, to say the least.
One of my favorite things about the record is its crystal clear production. On my way to see the show, I wondered if the clarity would translate just as well live... And it did. I heard every layer of synth, every drum kick, and Shura's voice was as smooth and pure as ever. After "Nothing's Real," they surprisingly went into one of her biggest songs "What's It Gonna Be" rather than saving it for last.
Her personality shined through as she laughed and even screamed during songs. In between, she'd banter about rubbish, but in the most endearing way. She was relatable. She seemed like a real, authentic person.
She made us feel like we were friends - her show had that intimacy and casualness that most pop performances lack. Where most pop stars keep you at arm's length or make you feel like every word is planned out, Shura is truly a 25 year old woman who has dealt with shyness and anxiety and loves making music for a living. In between songs, I overheard two guys talking to each other, "She's pretty cute!" Not in a dehumanizing cat call kind of way, but in a way that was like "Hey, we didn't know this gal before we got here but she's actually pretty dope and for that, we respect her!"
Another thing that was so likable was that she was behind her synthesizer the entire time, triggering samples or whipping out her electric guitar for "2Shy." In addition to writing and singing pop music, she is also behind the production, similar to Grimes. For "Touch," she dove into the crowd, quite literally touching her fans. She made her way all the way from the left side of the audience to the right, spanning it across the entirety of the song.
She finished off her set with "White Light," which delivered an explosive club-like beat to end with. She extended the ending so that she could chaotically build the intensity, resulting in her smashing over her sample machine (I cringed at that part, poor sample machine), and at this point, the beanie flew off her head, letting out an untamed mane which hid her face.
This is nothing we'd ever really see at a Madonna show. Ever. Shura brought a certain grittiness that was refreshing. She shattered the pop illusion and showed us, "Hey, you can make this type of music and still be your unprocessed, unpackaged self."