Nilüfer Yanya


Nilüfer Yanya has recently cashed in on a couple of years’ steady hype with her debut album, Miss Universe. Plaudits have rained in from internet corners far and wide, her ascent into the mainstream of the alternative complete. It is fully deserved, too. Miss Universe is a charmingly strange album, one of those that stretches the pop form into new, ragged distortions, massaging it into shapes that are unfamiliar but immediately appealing. In as much as she fits anywhere, she could be slotted into a New Weird British school with the likes of Let’s Eat Grandma and Sink Ya Teeth.

When she arrives into the Pink Room at Yes tonight, the new leader in the small-to-medium sized venue circuit in Manchester, the room is not full but it is attentive. Yanya is initially joined only by the marvellously nomenclatured Jazzi Bobbi for a stripped back opening. The feeling is good and with some space in the room, there is a commitment from both sides of the stage to keep the warmth alive.

When Yanya’s bassist and drummer join the fray after the opening number, and Bobbi switches to sax, there is a smooth and sassy strut to the band, a muffled indie jive that has Yes in approval. Yanya moves straight into ‘Baby Luv’, the first track to bring her some breakthrough exposure at the end of 2017, and already we have seen showcased a small collection of songs that on record hop confidently between genres and styles. So far tonight, though, there has been little variety.

We find ourselves locked into one fairly narrow lane, unfortunately. Yanya’s vocals and guitar are perfectly solid and assured, her band competent and the inclusion of saxophone adding a measure of distinctiveness, but where her recorded output derives joy from its unpredictability, everything tonight is coated in a blanket of mediocrity. The mood is respectful, but before the midway point, attentions begin to stray.

As is often the case, once a subsection of the crowd has been lost, they are difficult to get back. Personal conversations begin to take hold. The bulk of the audience’s gaze remains fixed on stage, but there is now a sense of drift to proceedings. A cover of the Pixies’ ‘Hey’ stirs the pot somewhat, a welcome surprise in a night with too few of them, and an angular performance of ‘In Your Head’ is as close as we get to rousing, but it is never quite enough to stop the flatlining.

She finishes with ‘Heavyweight Champion of the Year’, a more bare bones expression from Yanya that offers the most effective and intense experience of the night. The parts of the crowd that have remained undeterred in their devotion to the performance take the chance to show their love as she leaves the stage, as if to prove that the talkers at the back don’t represent the majority. They don’t, but perhaps in the hands of a more experienced and confident artist, the talkers’ attention, too, could have been held. Miss Universe proves that Yanya is a powerful artist; hopefully in time, her shows will prove the same.

Nilüfer Yanya: Official | Facebook | Twitter

Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.