Rina Sawayama at the BandLab NME Awards 2022: an exhilarating performance of extremes

March 2, The O2 Academy Brixton, London: NME's newly crowned Best Live Act lived up to the hype with a performance of intoxicating passion and sublime choreography

Earlier tonight at the BandLab NME Awards 2022, Rina Sawayama was awarded the iconic middle finger for Best Live Act Supported By Grolsch. For the uninitiated in attendance at Brixton Academy, her incendiary performance on stage just an hour later proved exactly why she was worthy of the honour.

The Dirty Hit-signed singer’s 2020 debut album proved a frontrunner in the surprising but welcome resurgence of nu-metal into the conversation around cutting-edge music. A big part of that was its stunning single ‘XS’, which mixed polished pop with dirty, pulverising guitars in a formula that looked to the past for inspiration but faced firmly forwards in its ambition.

These extremes are pushed even further to the front in her lauded live shows, and are out in force during tonight’s performance. The rendition of ‘XS’ accentuates the two sides of Sawayama as they come together to form a perfect whole. In her lightning-quick three minutes on stage, she presents herself as an arena-conquering pop powerhouse. Blink, though, and you’ll miss her turn into a rock goddess, head-banging to insanely heavy blasts of metal. It’s a truly exciting cocktail, one impossible to resist.

Rina Sawayama performing live at the BandLab NME Awards 2022. Credit: Jennifer McCord/NME.

In the speech for her Best Live Act win, presented to her by Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Sawayama spoke of how she posted an ad in the back of NME trying to get some bandmates when she was just 15 years old.

Those bandmates didn’t exactly work out, as she explained in her speech, but those joining her on stage tonight are a perfect fit. A troupe of dancers flutter around her with exemplary choreography, while an acoustic guitarist and ferocious drummer add arena rock levels of bombast. Everything revolves around Sawayama though, a genre-fusing, always surprising, boundary-breaking star of the future.

Check back for the latest news, interviews, winners and more from the BandLab NME Awards 2022

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