Where an album allows the artist to distill and refine, a concert embraces personal essence.  Sure, the videos and recordings of Anna Wise showcase her stunning voice, but after seeing her recent show at Nashville’s Exit/In, I was left in awe of her artistic vision.

In concert, Wise is a bit of a mystery.  Without any fanfare or pomp, she took the stage and simply told us she was going to sing a few songs that she had written.  There was almost an air of vulnerability that was completely unexpected from the music-video-confident Grammy-award winner.  Wise opts to build loops instead of using a backing band; this practice can walk a fine line where too much can distract from the show, however, Wise skillfully crafts loops that are works of art painted using her dynamic vocal range. It was in these moments that she floated into a creative realm while the crowd basked in admiration.

Another chapter of the Wise mystery is her sometimes contrasting presence. One moment she is an exposed, almost raw songwriter; the next, she dominates the stage while boldly attacking gender stereotypes and sexual misogyny. With her albums titled The Feminine Act I and Act II, societal perceptions of femininity are clearly close to her heart.  In both conversations with the crowd and songs like the R&B tinged “Bitch/Slut,” she challenged society’s expectations and censorship of female sexuality in thought-provoking fashion.

Ascribing a particular genre to Wise is impossible. There were touches of R&B, synth-pop, and electro dance. The style changes kept the show fresh and full of pleasant surprises. Wise is a frequent collaborator with Kendrick Lamar and she showed off her vocal prowess with an a cappella version of her part in their song “These Walls.” Ultimately, the evening was about awareness and community. Even the most stoic of the crowd had to smile when Wise left the stage during her final song “Go,”–an infectious blend of optimistic lyrics over top of dark beats– to join in the dance party that she created. The live show tends to reveal the person behind the artist, and on this night, Anna Wise proved to be a vocal and socially perceptive powerhouse.

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[This review and these fabulous photos were handcrafted by the one and only George Maifair, you can catch up with him on Twitter–@georgemaifair.]

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