Shura at Academy 2, Manchester review

Oliver King witnessed Shura's European tour come to a end in a cloud of euphoria with a homecoming date.

Last updated: 13th Dec 2016.
Originally published: 12th Dec 2016

Image: Eloise Shaw

After many months of extensive touring, it was expected that Shura’s homecoming show - and the final night of her tour - at the Manchester Academy 2 would be a pretty special night, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

When Shura first came on to the scene in 2014 with her debut single 'Touch', a beautiful synth-pop slow jam, no-one could have imagine that she could and would have accumulated the massive cult following that she now boasts. But that sense of unity and intimacy was overarching on Friday night as the crowd waited for their homecoming queen to take to the stage.

After spending the year touring her new album, the illustrious Nothing’s Real, across America with Tegan & Sara and M83, Shura - real name, Alexandra Lilah Denton - has spent the last month touring Europe, and will continue on to Australasia at the end of December.

Nothing’s Real draws its influence from 80s and 90s electropop and R&B; Shura herself has cited icons such as Madonna and Janet Jackson as role models, but her style of performance is the polar opposite of these seasoned veterans. Simply walking on to the stage with no bells and whistles as her introduction, when (i) - the same song which opens her album - played you could see the elation on her face as she greeted the hometown crowd.

The title track, 'Nothing’s Real' followed. Its thumping beat and disco-esque swirling strings translated euphorically to a live setting.

Shura’s relatively static style of performing - because she plays her own keyboards and guitars so spends a lot of the time in the same part of the stage - does nothing to take anything away from the kinetic energy of the song, which she performs with a switched up vocal performance - more tense and urgent than the album track's sad and longing sensibilities.

Over the course of the next hour, Shura played the entirety of her debut as well as one new song, 'Sacrifice', presumably from her eagerly anticipated sophomore album expected next year.

The album translates fantastically to a live setting, and the main theme of being an introvert in the LGBTQ+ community is even more poignant when played out in front of your eyes.

The heartbreaking '2Shy' (above) is a major set highlight, and Shura’s meek but emotive vocal performance on the song hits you right in the gut and adds an extra emotional punch to the show; it’s transcendent in the most arresting way. Like the album itself, it’s quirky but accessible, taking you on a journey that an introvert goes on on a daily basis - something which isn’t seen or heard often in pop music.

The centre piece of the album is the one-two punch of 'Kidz ‘n’ Stuff' and 'Indecision' and the devastating segue which seamlessly links the two songs, all of which is recreated in the live show. The sorrowful yet blissful 'Kidz ‘n’ Stuff' entranced the audience, and when it slowly segues in the upbeat, thundering opening drums of Indecision, you can feel that it is a really special moment.

After performing the aforementioned 'Touch', she and her band leave the stage momentarily before returning to perform the track, 'White Light', which like on the album, is the concluding track and is also performed with the hidden coda '311215'. The ten minute long track is a real journey, and after building up throughout a drawn out middle instrumental, the show climaxes with a huge wall of electronic sound which draws the gig to its euphoric close.

Shura really lets loose during the final section, and you can feel her sheer joy of performing this song. The soft keys of 311215 close the show as she and her band leave the stage.

It’s hard to imagine how it must feel ending your first headlining European tour with a concert in your hometown, but if Friday was anything to go by - for the concert and Shura herself - it seems like it’s a bucket list-type moment. If this year is anything to go by, this is just the beginning for our shy electropop queen.

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