In the darkened room of the Nottingham Arts Theatre, audience waiting expectantly on the velvet-upholstered chairs, Andreya Triana walked onto the stage. Dressed in a yellow flowered trouser suit, a white lacy shirt, eye-wateringly high red heels and a carefully placed shock of brown curly hair propped up from her head at an angle, she looked sharp, crisp and ready. This was the first night of the British soulstress’s tour and it was going to go well.
Then she began to sing. Her music was a smooth blend of soul, jazz and easy listening – it was easy to see why this young woman had caught the attention of heavyweights Bonobo, Flying Lotus and Mr. Scruff. The music glittered and her extraordinary woody and rich voice soared over the top. Each note she sang told a story, the breadth and ease of her voice evoked forest imagery, each melody line telling a new fairytale set in this wooded landscape. This was especially prevalent during one of the show’s highlights, where she took on the electric guitar while her guitarist finger-picked on an acoustic, adding a folky element to her sparkling songs.
As the show unravelled, so did Triana. After two songs she had removed her jacket, after three her shoes. Walking round the stage bare foot, she talked and joked with the audience, creating an inclusive atmosphere that felt more like she was performing in your front room than in a 300-capacity theatre. By song four it felt like everyone in the room was friends – people were out of their seats and dancing in the aisles, which, by the end of the show had grown into a small crowd by the fire exit, the only clearing in the room, all having a mini party.
When Andreya returned to the stage for her encore, she seemed to cast a little bit of magic. Noticing the audience was already up from her standing ovation, she invited everyone to come up to and on to the stage sit or stand around her in a semi-circle where she perched on one of the front speakers. Then, as a raconteur surrounded by her enraptured listeners, she broke into a heartfelt ballad. By the end the audience was singing along, and for the final line she shared the microphone with an audience member, and as they sang, “You know I will be here at the end of the day,” Triana began to cry.
The show concluded with hit song ‘Gold‘, for which Triana turned us into, “Nottingham’s best choir nobody’s ever heard of.” Teaching us to sing the song’s hook, and with the majority of the audience on stage with her by this point, the mood was entirely celebratory: of Triana, of music, of being alive. As she left the stage, she called out, “I’m going to be in the bar after this so I can talk to every single one of you!” She was true to her word. It was a very special evening.