NIKI or Nicole Zefanya? ‘Keeping Tabs’ on her many tales, live in concert

NIKI or Nicole Zefanya? ‘Keeping Tabs’ on her many tales, live in concert

Jakarta-born, US-based star explores ambivalent emotions in Zepp KL show

MERELY minutes past eight on a Thursday night, one Nicole Zefanya told some 2,500 people at Zepp Kuala Lumpur: “You could’ve been anywhere tonight, but you chose to be here, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Not one to be caged by any genre, the 23-year-old Jakarta-born, US-based singer-songwriter, who made her debut under the 88rising label as NIKI in 2017, straddles an eclectic offering of sounds in her work, from indie to R&B to electro-pop to folk.

Starting the show last night with Before, the first track on her sophomore album Nicole, the influence of American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift was palpable, with masterful storytelling in her lyricism and emotive folk-tinged sounds.

The head-bopping Keeping Tabs, the second song performed by Zefanya last night, explores the tensions between clinging to a past lover and mustering the fortitude to move on from them.


Keeping Tabs, the second song performed by Nicole Zefanya at her Zepp Kuala Lumpur concert last night, explores the tensions between clinging to a past lover and mustering the fortitude to move on from them. – DIYANAH FATIN AZHAR/The Vibes pic, December 9, 2022

Nicole is Zefanya’s homage to her pre-NIKI self and the material she had written as a high schooler then. Making the record, she said in a tweet on August 12, “has reawakened a full-bodied joy & love for what i do that i think was dormant for a second there”.

This love was deeply felt in her sincere delivery of a slew of songs from the album: Backburner, Anaheim, The Apartment We Won’t Share, and Oceans and Engines.

While Zefanya strummed the guitar throughout nearly all the aforementioned songs, The Apartment We Won’t Share was performed on keys.

With lyrics like “The daughter we won’t raise still waits for you/The girl I won’t be is the one that’s yours” over an accompaniment of strings, Zefanya’s live rendition of the song painted her in an introspective light: it felt as though she was lamenting “a life we never got to live” in solitude as the crowd basked in that moment in the dark, with the sole spotlight on her.

The same emotion was carried over into Lose, an “intimate ballad” from her debut album Moonchild. It chronicled “the internal dialogue that ensues when one hits a tipping point in a tumultuous relationship”.


Not one to be caged by any genre, Nicole Zefanya, who made her debut with under the 88rising label as Niki (stylised: NIKI) in 2017, straddles an eclectic offering of sounds in her work, from indie to R&B to electropop to folk. – DIYANAH FATIN AZHAR/The Vibes pic, December 9, 2022

Ambivalent feelings in a connection became the running thread binding Zefanya’s sonically divergent songs as she pivoted into her R&B hit I Like U – a song about a friends-with-benefits situation gone awry after the persona’s confession – as an exhilarated crowd sang along to “I like you/I like you/I like you”.

Earlier, the high-octane instrumentation on Vintage – a track from her first EP, Zephyr – was a nonchalant, flippant attempt at concealing Zefanya’s regrets about the demise of a past relationship, as she waxed lyrical to the crowd about her ex-lover in lines like “Still as charismatic as ever/Comebacks come back clean and clever/Why we ended, I don’t remember”.

Decked in school “uniforms” with bedazzled skirts, Zefanya and her bandmates took the audience back to High School in Jakarta as she playfully, and almost comically, recalled the brutal, drama-filled battlefield of such years, where she “had no chance against the teenage suburban armadas” in a “sorta modern Sparta”.


Nicole is Zefanya’s homage to her pre-NIKI self and the material she had written as a high schooler. Making the record, she said in a tweet on August 12, ‘has reawakened a full-bodied joy & love for what i do that i think was dormant for a second there’. – DIYANAH FATIN AZHAR/The Vibes pic, December 9, 2022

Despite the song being about a blossoming new romance, there was also nothing “lowkey” about the energy coming from Zefanya and her band, as well as the crowd. The whole hall reverberated with echoes of “Say I’m your queen, I don’t wanna leave this/Low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low-key”.

Ending the hour-long show with her viral single Every Summertime, Zefanya left the audience in high spirits with her dreamlike “Baby, I’d give up anything to travel inside your mind/Baby, I fall in love again, come every summertime” against a vibrant backdrop of kaleidoscopic visuals.


Ending the hour-long show with her viral single Every Summertime, Nicole Zefanya left the audience in high spirits with her dreamlike ‘Baby, I’d give up anything to travel inside your mind/Baby, I fall in love again, come every summertime’ against a vibrant backdrop of kaleidoscopic visuals. – DIYANAH FATIN AZHAR/The Vibes pic, December 9, 2022

The cherry on top of The Nicole Tour’s success in North America and this region in Jakarta and Singapore just days prior, Zefanya told the audience at Zepp Kuala Lumpur last night: “KL, did you guys know that you were the first Asian city to have sold out tickets (for this tour)? You guys did it in under an hour!”

Zefanya is now set to headline the Manila edition of the Head In The Clouds festival today and tomorrow before concluding her Asian leg of the tour with a solo show at Zepp New Taipei on December 13.

source – https://www.thevibes.com/articles/culture/79659/niki-or-nicole-zefanya-keeping-tabs-on-her-many-tales-live-in-concert

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