Hiatus Kaiyote’s Nai Palm brought impressive improvisation, building layers through simple strumming and singing to create a soothing sound larger than that of her one-person band.

10/10/17 – Brighton Music Hall

It was hard to tell who was glowing more at Nai Palm’s Brighton Music Hall performance. Naomi “Nai Palm” Saalfield (also known as the lead singer of neo-soul act Hiatus Kaiyote) was outlined with a pinkish red hue from the lights, her smile and her eyes shining as she scanned the crowd that packed the venue. Her fans came strapped into overalls, in shoes with rubber soles three inches thick, splattered with tattoos, and armed with compliments and words of glowing encouragement.

“You’re a goddess!” someone shouted. “Yeah girl!” egged on others.

She was only equipped with her guitar and her vocal chords and her performance felt much like an air show by a fleet of Blue Angels. At times, guitar and voice were perfectly in parallel, aligned in rhythm and beat. At others, the guitar chords and vocals flew around one another, circling, spinning and crossing paths but never colliding. She strummed chords and plucked notes, sometimes speeding ahead of the lyrics and sometimes trailing behind, prolonging phrases and allowing the words to linger.

The resulting effect created layers where layers could not exist, according to the limitations of the number of instruments on hand. Then again, it also helped that the crowd was eager to join in and fill in where Nai Palm could not. A number of the songs off her solo album incorporates acoustic or alternative versions of Hiatus Kaiyote’s songs, so songs like “Atari” and “Molasses” became instant sing-alongs as the crowd filled in for backup vocals.

 

 

On “Molasses” her voice slid up and down the scale with the smoothness of a trombone player. With no one else to follow her lead, Nai Palm was free to improvise and extend her songs as she saw fit. Most of her material was filled out by a series of yeah’s ah’s ooh’s and uh’s, improvising and repeating phrases as she channeled the deep vocals of Amy Winehouse or the strength of Ms. Lauryn Hill.

“This song I wrote in ten minutes or something. That fucking like never happens though!” She said as she strummed. “It’s not ‘Homebody,’” she said, correcting a fan in the front. “I tricked you with the first cho-ord!” she sang-talked with a smile.

On “Homebody,” a fragile number that Nai Palm softly sang as she brushed her guitar strings. “Hold on to each other when you can,” Nai Palm recommended, accompanied by the clinking of glasses cleared by the bartenders preparing for the night’s end.

On the final encore song “Nakamarra,” the crowd chimed in again: “Honey don’t you, love you I do.” They certainly did.

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