​​Snoh Aalegra, review: emerges as a fully fledged star in her own right

​​Snoh Aalegra - Daniel DeSlover/Sipa USA
​​Snoh Aalegra - Daniel DeSlover/Sipa USA

“Don’t feel yourself,” is how Snoh Aalegra once explained the Swedish concept of Jantelagen – a preference for modesty and aversion to ego – which held sway during her upbringing as a second-generation Iranian in Sweden. But when the 33-year-old singer took to the stage at a packed-out Brixton Academy on Wednesday night, clad in a glittering silver catsuit and swathed in peachy fog, she appeared to have discarded that notion. She was certainly feeling herself.

And feeling plenty else, too. Emotions defined the night, as Aalegra promised to take everybody on a “rollercoaster of feels and temporary highs”, the kind that’s shaped her work from her 2017 breakthrough album Feels to its follow-up, Ugh, Those Feels Again, and last year’s Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies. She writes introspective songs about mercurial, complex feelings that resist articulation, and about situations that resist any feeling at all. Her moody mid-tempo music captures the current dating climate: confusing, unreliable, a profusion of vague “situationships” rather than established relationships.

As she stalked the stage, it was easy to see why Prince took Aalegra under his wing during the final years of his life. She owned the space, occasionally sliding down the microphone or posing seductively on the floor, but allowing her poised vocals, old-school soul ballads, and trap-flecked R’n’B to do most of the work. Striking a balance between aloof nonchalance and angsty vulnerability, the play between her bold stage presence and sense of confiding introspection proved powerful. Meanwhile, the energy of her records – luminous beats, synth, vocal tinkering, inventive production which keeps her sound fresh rather than nostalgic – found its on-stage equivalent in a live band.

Guitars, drums, and keyboards lifted big hitters such as Lost You, Indecisive, and Neon Peach, while the odd searing, Prince-like riff worked well against the more delicate instances of falsetto and a cappella in her voice. It became clear that Aalegra – a sought-after feature artist who’s collaborated with the likes of Dave, Drake, Alicia Keys, and Tyler, the Creator – is a fully fledged star in her own right.

The other star of the show, however, was the audience – and not just because of the presence of Janet Jackson among them. Rapt and clamorous from opening track Situationship on, they elevated every song and proved serious competition for Aalegra’s own robust vocals, intent on exalting her as loudly as possible.

Nevertheless the uninitiated may have found the setlist starting to blur. ​​Snoh Aalegra​‘s songs tend to lack big hooks or catchy choruses, she often sings in a low, intimate style that compels listeners to move in closer, and there was little chat between tracks. The set operated at a similar level throughout, and risked flagging. However, the room never stopped moving, not even through the slower, lighter-waving tracks of the second half.

By the encore – a one-two punch of her most popular tracks, Find Someone Like You and I Want You Around – the crowd provided most of the vocals, flouting Jantelagen so much that Aalegra didn’t need to. “I want this to last forever,” the room sang, over and over, and it was hard not to be swayed by the sheer conviction of the crowd.