Rina Sawayama @ SWG3, Glasgow, 13 Nov

Rina Sawayama’s sensational performance leaves lasting feelings of elation, togetherness and all-round queer joy

Live Review by Bethany Davison | 16 Nov 2021

Few gigs leave images that resonate beyond the end of the night. But with Rina Sawayama’s first headline tour, the culmination of the experience can simply be described as lasting. 

With a generous turnout for support from AMA and HANA, the crowd signal a sense of mutual elation from the get-go. This energy only seems to rise through the evening, matching that of Sawayama’s performance – she begins the night as vibrantly as she sees it out. 

Sawayama’s set runs through the entirety of 2020’s SAWAYAMA, while briefly revisiting 2017’s RINA with Cyber Stockholm Syndrome after the first intermission. Before flying into a crazily energetic show of Comme des garçons (Like the Boys), Sawayama announces that “something very LGBT is about to happen”, before telling us how “the last 18 months have made [her] feel so seen, so heard, and so loved.” 

During a fully acoustic version of Chosen Family, it really seems that a weight in the room has been lifted. There is an intense feeling of emotional connection; hugging, handholding, and experiencing not just the shift to her stripped-back vocals against the chorus of the room, but really believing the words in every line. 

Displaying her skill as a performer, Sawayama then changes the energy on a dime with the live debut of new song Catch Me In the Air striking a shift from mellow to waves of animation. A song about “catching each other when falling”, she continues in the same theme, while doing, she tells us, “something different from the other cities”. This moment really highlights how special the performance in Glasgow has been. Followed by Cherry, with the stage lit up as a giant pride flag, the breadth of community and solidarity that is constantly communicated between Sawayama and the audience all evening is intensified. 

The final song of the night is Sawayama’s remix of Lady Gaga’s Free Woman. Dedicated to Britney, this is not just a celebration of queerness and freedom, but a wider movement in pop music and pop culture alike: a moment of true serendipity. Celebrating this joining of generations in a final burst of elation, Sawayama’s live performance closes with the perfect amalgamation of everything her music stands for: high energy and higher emotions.  

Blending a cross-section of heavy rock and pop dynamics, and deploying a wind machine, queer lighting, outfit changes and powerful choreography, the night is not a revival, but rather a new wave of queer pop. I’ve never left a gig feeling so connected to both myself and my LGBT+ family, and this is the most lasting effect of all.