SAN FRANCISCO — My Brightest Diamond‘s concert Tuesday at the Rickshaw Stop may very well end up being one of the highlights of the Noise Pop Music Festival, but that’s not simply because of singer-songwriter Shara Nova’s musicality or stage presence—traditionally the two biggest factors when thinking about the impact of a concert.
There was something about the way that Nova carried herself on stage, the way that her eyes moved across her face, the way she lifted her arms and her words that gave the impression she was mindful of the lives of the people in the room there to see her. She was both a performer and a trusted friend or, even, a therapist there to help concertgoers unload their anxiety or concerns on her. It wasn’t an outward, obvious thing My Brightest Diamond declared or even asked. But it was definitely there, hidden behind her blend of art-pop and industrial songs.
After a talented drummer took his spot and kicked into a song, Shara Nova began singing in the back of the room and walked through the crowd to take the stage, dancing between fans and encouraging them to move with her. She wore a golden mirrorball boxing robe with “Nova” emblazoned on the back, and once she was finally at the stage she proceeded to thoroughly cut a rug during the continuing opening number, “It’s Me on the Dance Floor.”
She followed that up with an art-pop piece called “This is My Hand,” during which she listed off her various body and persona parts. The song, while catchy, had the effect of slowing down thought, and making one consider not only what Nova meant by her words, but think about how the words applied to oneself (“What do I think about my nose? What do I think are my strongest traits?”). The song also recalled “Them Bones,” so there was also some humor, not just gravitas, to the moment. A later lighthearted moment included a brief cover of The Strangeloves’ “I Want Candy.”
“Rising Star” was a cathartic outlet and a cacophonous celebration.
“I love you even if you’re different than me,” she repeated over and over to start the urgent, industrial “Supernova” in a distinct operatic falsetto. “I wish somebody said this to me, too,” she added after the song.
“Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do,” she asked the crowd two times, until fans began to outwardly concede that of course it’s happened to them. She followed that question by a song dedication for “You Wanna See My Teeth:”
“This is for Trayvon.”
Of course, that hit like a ton of bricks because no one in the room has had to pay for a false accusation with his or her life.
My Brightest Diamond was preceded by San Francisco artist ZOLA, who appeared both vulnerable and strong during a set of jazzy pop songs on which she switched effortlessly between French and English. Her nine-song set included a few new tunes in addition to the electro-tinged R&B tune “Blood (Sugar)” and the piano-led “Too Far Too Soon,” which reminded of classic Nora Jones. Live, that song was rougher around the edges than the recorded version, with scratchy bass providing an additional kick.
San Francisco singer-songwriter Debbie Neigher, better known as Lapel, opened the concert and brought a handful of enthusiastic friends with her. Neigher and accompanying vocalist Jess Silva sang delicate and powerful harmonies over layers of synthesizers and electronic beats. The highlight of the set came on “Less of a Woman,” from Lapel’s 2018 debut album, on which the two women duetted on the starkly on-the-nose realization of a song.