Nnamdï played Crystal Ballroom – 10/28
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya – the Chicago singer/songwriter/rapper/guitarist/etc. who now operates mononymously – has been building a reputation for himself these past several years through a series of buzzed-about records on his own Sooper label. This year’s Please Have a Seat is his first with major indie player Secretly Canadian, and is fittingly the most fully-realized version of his omnivorous sound to date. Song to song, and even minute to minute, the record seamlessly covers ground from abstract hip-hop to electro-tinged indie pop and groovy R&B while maintaining a cohesiveness thanks to the personality at its helm.
For his set at Somerville’s Crystal Ballroom at the start of Halloween weekend, Nnamdï did all of that and more on stage. Joined by a tight four-piece band, he pivoted between indie rock frontman, MC and crooner at will whilst running through the entirety of the new LP and some greatest hits. I say “running” both figuratively and literally, as his kinetic stage presence was a key component of the presentation (involving more than one bounding leap off the stage and into the crowd).
Nnamdï’s live show preceded him in a sense, since I’d caught short glimpses of his sets at Pitchfork Fest, Solid Sound and opening for last summer’s Wilco/Sleater-Kinney tour over the past couple years. He was a magnetic performer in each case – even whilst partially sidelined by an arm injury at the W-S-K show – so I’d been looking forward to an opportunity to see a whole, proper set. Friday’s masterful command of style and stage definitely lived up to my personal hype.
Opening the night were a great complementary pair in Chicago’s Joshua Virtue and MA’s own Pink Navel. I think you could accurately call both experimental rappers, but each with a distinctive bent – Pink Navel’s imbued with a post-internet sense of humor (they sampled a jingle from a Friendly’s commercial that shot me back several decades in time at one point) and JV’s angled toward a darker, headier space. Both were great.
Check out photos from the whole bill below.