Zara Larsson is one of those artists that started popping up on my curated Spotify playlists about a year ago. Every time “Never Forget You” would come on, I would pick up my phone wondering whose voice sounded like a young, poppy Rihanna. After a quick Google, I learned that Larsson is Swedish and got her big break at only 10 years old on Talang, the Swedish version of America’s Got Talent.
Watching her perform at the Fonda Theatre on Wednesday night, it was hard to imagine someone so self-assured and confident being only 19. Larsson kept the show super high energy, danced through her whole set, and brought on a group of four dancers in spandex to dance with her. It’s certainly not easy to be out on stage without a backing DJ or band, and she absolutely managed to carry the set on her own, even through a pared-down cover of Ed Sheeran’s hit, “Shape of You.”
A high point was Larsson’s performance of her hit “Ain’t My Fault,” a dancy, hip hop-infused track that certainly feels Rihanna-inspired. Even with the bells and whistles of her songs’ production, when you hear her powerful vocals it’s easy to see why Larsson is becoming known as the breakout new pop star in town.
Larsson just released her new album SO GOOD, which features collabs with Ty Dolla Sign, WizKid and Clean Bandit.
After a short intermission, Clean Bandit’s Grace Chatto, Jack Patterson, and Luke Patterson took the stage with vocalists Kirsten Joy and Yasmin Green and violinist, Stephanie Benedetti. They began their set with the somber and beautiful track, “UK Shanty” which blended seamlessly into the sweetly upbeat “Stronger.”
Clean Bandit’s mix of electronic/classical crossover electropop is insanely listenable, but I wasn’t sure how well it would translate to the stage. I’m happy to say that I was surprised by how dynamic the show was, but it was Zara Larsson’s return halfway through the set for Clean Bandit’s synthy, beat-heavy smash hit “Symphony,” that brought the crowd to its feet. Worth noting, too, that violinist, Stephanie Benedetti, who is credited on the recording “Symphony” absolutely stole the show, somehow managing to dance in stiletto boots and absolutely kill it on the violin at the same time.
It’s really Clean Bandit’s musical chops that set them apart. Chatto is a classically trained cellist, and watching her play an electric cello onstage is an experience that’s not to be missed. After twelve songs, the band bowed and left the stage, but even the casual Clean Bandit fan knew they’d be back for a raucous encore as they hadn’t yet played their mega hit “Rather Be.”
True to form, they returned to the stage to play “Real Love,” “Tears,” and “Rather Be.” Cell phones went up, the crowd went wild, and the band really left it all on the stage.
Words and photos by Stephanie Varela Rheingold