The Prickle (@ThePrickle) September 12, 2019
To understand Tamino’s Instagram feed is to understand the energy in the room as he plays his first New York show. 10s of thousands of followers click a little heart button to signify their love for images of the curly-locked singer-songwriter and at National Sawdust there’s moderate hysteria as well as some handmade jewellery. Of course there are also songs, but more on that later.
Before the Instagram generation meets the man of the moment, the stage is warmed by a quite different essence, that of violinist-synth-looping-singer Hannah Epperson. She wields a violin much in the same way a punk ukulele player might burl their instrument. Sometimes plucked underarm, then transitioning to bowed harmonics: Epperson’s technique is versatile, wistful and way-finding. ‘Simple song, simple girl,’ she sings — whether sarcasm or irony, the contrast between words and actions is clear as nordic and Celtic fiddle influences collide. Fans of Kaki King and Joanna Newsome would enjoy her songwriting, voice and mic technique, and just when the high-wire violin lines plateau, she turns to the synth to ground with some bass pedalling. Hannah sighs with satisfaction to herself, maybe at the way a plucked note has been caught — the same way a nearly full moon is catching the light outside in the Brooklyn dusk. Finishing her set with ‘Farthest Distance’ she brings things to a close by singing into her violin, allowing the instrument’s mics to catch and reverberate her voice. Novel, brilliant and totally in keeping with her identity.
If Hannah Epperson was excited to be opening for and seeing Tamino, this is nothing as to the caldron of anticipation that has built in the audience for the Belgian-Egyptian-Lebanese singer songwriter. In one of his opening songs —the aching ‘Persephone’— he confesses ‘I am only here to break your heart in two’. Well, that’s a borderline irresponsible sentiment in a room that’s about 98% breakable hearts, 2% balanced adolescent perspective. Eating from Tamino’s gentle, guitar-cradling hands, the crowd visibly compacts towards stage which is refreshingly not an issue because of National Sawdust’s spacious approach to capacity even for a standing show. Drawing on the Arabic soundworld of the musicians he collaborates with in Brussles, he lets out a mewing call to prayer, accompanied by a simple guitar underlay. There are bits of Radiohead (Colin Greenwood played on debut EP Habibi) and pieces of Muse. When someone shouts out to request ‘Crocodile’ he retunes his guitar and obliges. This is clearly a decent person playing decent songs.
Tamino gained extended reach and recognition with a Tiny Desk that featured piano, percussion and bass. This debut NYC performance feels like a cliff-hanger that will be resolved when he comes back with a full band — they’ll add complexity and depth to a live show that is understated and sparse. That said, you can bet that none of the ticket-holders at National Sawdust had any complaints: they were overjoyed to be in the same room as Tamino and will come back to see him irrespective of the line-up.