Known for her indie singer-songwriter style, it was no surprise that NIKI came on stage in just jeans and a white cropped T-shirt. Her casual outfit reflected precisely what her fans adore about her: a vulnerable, intensely intimate and autobiographical musical style that has captured audiences around the world. After getting her start opening for Taylor Swift at only 15, the 23-year-old from Jakarta brought “The Nicole Tour” to San Francisco for a two-night stay, where the city greeted her with open hearts and minds.
The show opened on a high note, with NIKI prancing on stage and immediately breaking into “Keeping Tabs” from her latest LP Nicole. Aside from a few decorative plants, the stage was mostly bare considering NIKI isn’t one for theatrics: Instead, as shown throughout her set, NIKI aims to connect most directly with her audience through lyrics and emotion. Even in those first few minutes, NIKI managed to develop a musical volley with the audience in the room, playfully exchanging chorus lines perfectly in sync.
Her ability to grip the audience was undeniable, and this wasn’t just any audience. These were her peers, many of whom shared her age and hence many coming-of-age life experiences. Whether it be heartbreak, angst or just young love, the resounding energy reflected NIKI’s place in music: to define a generation. Her set wasn’t just a collection of songs, but a full narrative complete with protagonists, villains and long-lost friends. “The Nicole Tour” is a mouthpiece for her generation, and NIKI gladly and beautifully shared her voice with fans at The Regency Ballroom.
NIKI offered more than just illustrious storytelling during her performance, however, choosing to showcase a variety of instrumental capabilities. From her mic to guitar to piano, she hit every note and each sequential chord flawlessly, and, even more impressively, made each talent appear effortless throughout. Her presence onstage came across as wholeheartedly natural, as if performing was programmed in her DNA.
Even still, NIKI found clever ways to integrate different mediums into her San Francisco show. A large digital screen behind her played clips from music videos and visualizations of lyrics that she sang. Clips showed her falling in love with a boy in a college dorm, and others showed her dealing with the heartbreak of losing said boy. Amplified by these affective visuals, NIKI’s lyrics and tonalities hit harder and stronger, with a vividness that made her concert wholly immersive. These small additions sometimes made all the difference, offering visual stimuli when the show reached its slower points.
While there were few, a lull period or two did take a chunk out of NIKI’s stage time. This was the result of a handful of slower, deep-cut tracks being played back-to-back without lighter interference. Nevertheless, NIKI was able to convey the powerful emotions present in heart-wrenching tracks such as “Anaheim” and “The Apartment We Won’t Share,” bringing the room closer for some surprisingly intimate moments.
As she officially concluded the night with “High School in Jakarta,” she transported audiences back to NIKI’s teenage years, reminding them just how young she actually is. It’s a fact that’s easy to forget considering she has such a mature onstage presence, yet this track reiterated how NIKI has grown up alongside her fans, nurturing a bond as sturdy as the ballroom stage she stood on.
At its core, NIKI’s “The Nicole Tour” conveys an emotional journey all about growing up. Her performance artfully encapsulated love, loss, learning and growing, functioning as a link between audience and performer. NIKI curated a resounding energy relaying openness and vulnerability. As she opened up through lyrics and small interactions, the audience did as well — her fans cried, laughed and raved exactly when she wanted them to, demonstrating the power of a truly gifted performer.