Before Sevdaliza took the stage at London’s Heaven Nightclub, magic was already shimmering in the air. Decked out in sequins, acid wash, spiraling chromatic jewelry and athleisure, concertgoers packed in tight to general admission. The chatter was equal-parts stoic and giggly. Anyone who shoved a shoulder in to arrive at the front seemed to do so out of love.
Passion for the Iranian-Dutch artist has only blossomed within the past year. Sevdaliza dropped her first studio album, ISON, in April.
Joining the ranks of electronic R+B artists like FKA Twigs and Kelela, Sevdaliza sets herself apart with her lush visuals, dark romantic narratives and startling honesty.
The pre-gig pump-up trickling out of the speakers was also on-brand: grinding, industrial trap for the health-goth-meets-art-hoe set. At one point, the DJ was bumping Princess Nokia records. When these tunes dissolved into ambient noises, almost like a soundtrack for the Upside Down, that we knew what was coming. It was time for the queen to arrive.
The stage grew dark, save for a few piercing rays of lights — fitting for a club called Heaven. A hum formed the foundation for suspense.
And just when the crowd was going to burst with anticipation, enter stage right: a proud figure cutting through the smoke. Sevdaliza glided up to the stand. She was a vision in the futuristic, with her white leather shrug, and the analog, with her flowers and crown.
Early on, Sevdaliza transitioned to the PVC dress. It suited her. The flushed blaze of Heaven’s lights bounced well off of the glossy garment. Tied close to her body and showing off her dancer’s legs, the dress also made her look like the warrior she is.
From the jump, we were being informed each moment that this was a space princess of old, descending to Earth save the galaxy.
One line into the show, cheers had sounded from the audience. That’s no small feat in a room full of Brits. But how could you not react to having Sevdaliza perform right there in front of you? An Amazonian hero awash in sunrise light and the devil’s colors?
The melodies of “Amandine Insensible” and “Shahmaran” wedged themselves right into your heart. Likewise for “Hero” and “Bluecid.” “That Other Girl” simply slapped.
“Loves Way” was touched with such tenderness that Heaven fell silent. You could look around and see faces upturned to Sevdaliza’s glow, lips silently mouthing the sacred lyrics.
While Sevdaliza remained composed and focused on stage, surely, she took note of this devotion. At one point, she warmly thanked the concertgoers assembled at Heaven. She stopped everything, put her mic away and came up to the barricade clasp hands with fans.
Watching Sevdaliza perform “Human” live transported you to a space where time was elastic and you could drift through Sevdaliza’s thoughts like notes in the wind. There was something in this incarnation that forced you to meditate: here Sevdaliza was, with body movements and sounds and appearance otherworldly, insisting on her mortality.
Her voice glittered and swelled like a breathing, glinting jewel. The basslines weren’t the kind to burst your eardrums, but they definitely resounded in your chest.
The juxtaposition of Sevdaliza’s soaring voice with the pulsing music was beautiful enough. But then Sevdaliza had to put us all to shame with her dancing.
What started out as poised and regal evolved into the smoldering and sensual. And then, came the sharp, tight, supernatural moves that take cues from hip-hop and drag culture.
It was through these routines with her dancer, Gil the Grid, that Sevdaliza showed off her complex nature: both unflinching and malleable. She bewitches and becomes bewitched.
Markedly, her powerful, rippling form was a physical foil to Gil, who is electric and wiry. It subverts any mainstream conception of what a woman and man partnered up to dance should look like.
Undeniably, Sevdaliza embodies incredible strength and beauty. She is Mars and Venus in one spirit. But despite this transcendent energy, Sevdaliza is, as she sings, only human.
The darkness, whether it takes its form in deception, temptation or decadence, does sometimes get the better of her. Through her music, we get a glimpse into her journey to defeat it.
After watching Sevdaliza bewitch all of Heaven nightclub, too, it’s safe to say her fierceness, vulnerability and grace make Sevdaliza a force to be reckoned with.