Live: RINA SAWAYAMA // Avant Gardner Great Hall, New York City
Rina Sawayama brought her Hold The Girl tour to Brooklyn’s Avant Gardner last month, a triumphant celebration of generational healing, queer joy, and empowerment.
Fans had long awaited Rina Sawayama’s second appearance at Avant Gardner, the singer having rescheduled the November 2nd show due to illness. Despite some minor stage design changes, the concert continued in much the same fashion as previous tour dates. Opening with the first track off of her 2022 sophomore album Hold The Girl, Minor Feelings set the tone for the evening. A slow-building, anthemic introductory track, Rina Sawayama appeared upstage, dressed in an impressively large, denim cape/dress. Rocketing into Hold The Girl, Sawayama and her dancers strutted across the stage as her fans cheered her on.
Pausing before Send My Love to John, Sawayama addressed the crowd. She compared the therapy that she underwent during this album cycle as “intense.” Not unlike having laryngitis, she joked. Sawayama opened up further, disclosing that she had to process a lot upon turning 30. “I began the process of reparenting myself.”
“I was able to hold my inner child close. And hence, hold the girl!”
This wasn’t the only instance of candid vulnerability. I was struck by Sawayama’s willingness to have these hard conversations in a large room. There was a beautiful emphasis on using chosen family and music as a tool for healing. Sawayama has created such a magical, safe space for fans that may feel like they don’t have safe spaces elsewhere. One even held a sign that read, “Thank you for holding us.”
Rina Sawayama’s musicality is a joy to witness. She and her band played Forgiveness, and as one of my favorites on Hold The Girl, I felt so lucky to hear its live debut. Showcasing stunning vocal runs, Sawayama proved the strength behind her vocals (it’s no wonder that she would need to cancel a show if her voice wasn’t completely healthy). As the end of the set drew near, the focus shifted toward her debut album SAWAYAMA, highlights including a mash-up of LUCID and Beg For You, and an energetic rendition of fan-favorite XS.
Photos: Morgan Winston