Last night, a crowd of around 650 fortunate fans were afforded the luxury of witnessing H.E.R. play live in the decadent surrounds of West London’s Porchester Hall. The intimate set up came to be because of H.E.R.’s selection by Apple Music as one of their ‘Up Next’ artists, with whom they curate bespoke, invite-only nights.
The collaborative effort between Apple Music and H.E.R. kicked off with a congenial warming flush of red lights and smoke which rose high towards the ornate wooden ceiling of Porchester Hall. The flush was enhanced with a warm-spirited address from the charismatic hostess of Beats 1, Julie Adenuga, who ensured that the room was filled to capacity with the right energy before the show kicked off.
Before H.E.R. took to the stage, the crowd – coaxed into the correct mood by Adenuga – hushed to a respectful quiet for the premiere of a short biographical flick about the 21-year-old artist’s rise. Staying true to the meaning of her stage name (‘Having Everything Revealed’), the film wove together a patchwork tale of H.E.R.’s progression, citing parental dedication and determination as key catalysts. In candid conversation, H.E.R. mused that she is simply “what it is to be young and what it is to be an emotional person”, while her manager identified her innate paradox as “an introverted extrovert.”
With the visual amuse-bouche finished with, the lights went down and H.E.R. slipped onto stage. The set thumped into action with Carried Away, the swashbuckling opener from her new EP ‘I Used To Know Her – Part 2’. The song quickly set the room to a simmer, while the reflective silver of H.E.R.’s sunglasses upheld a level of cool and nonchalance which seemed to belie her performative vigour.
H.E.R. then showcased her versatility, expertly slapping the bass guitar around to the enamoured crowd, before uniting the room in a moment of togetherness with a soulful rendition of ‘Best Part’. As bright white lights converged skyward, H.E.R. harmonised effortlessly with her male back-up vocalist, who himself offered a moving take on Daniel Caesar’s section of the song. Throughout this entire shift in mood, the cool nonchalance of the silver sunglasses prevailed. The crowd melted in admiration.
Swapping bass for acoustic, H.E.R. merged Gospel with Blues and Country vibes with a cover of Foy Vance’s ‘Make it Rain’, before bringing in an upbeat anthem from the new EP, ‘Hard Place’. The juxtaposition between the two songs was incredibly well received, with this transition arguably constituting the energetic climax of the entire performance. Finishing on a defiant note thanks to the lyrics of ‘Hard Place’ and its reception from the audience, H.E.R. took the room’s vitality and ran with it.
Briefly breaking her steely cool persona of the evening, the vibrations of ‘Lost Souls’ feat. DJ Scratch filled the room. H.E.R. grabbed the mic and prowled the stage, truly meaning every lyric and bar from the Lauryn Hill-influenced jam that she uttered.
With such a heady dnouement, H.E.R.’s show metronomed from serene to swashbuckling, with her command of the room’s energies seeming like a natural gift to someone so young and fresh. Captivating the crowd from behind those impenetrable silver shades, last night did nothing to dispel the paradox of H.E.R. as “an introverted extrovert.”