Nigerian-British singer Tiwa Savage is a relatively new presence to most American music fans, but she’s been honing her craft for many years. After moving from Nigeria to London as a child, she began singing backup for George Michael and Mary J. Blige as a teenager. She participated in the British edition of “The X Factor” and graduated from Berklee College of Music, and then moved back to Nigeria and in short order became a major star, with her debut, “Once Upon a Time,” being nominated for album of the year at the 2014 Nigerian Entertainment Awards. In 2019 she signed with Universal and was featured on Beyonce’s “Lion King” soundtrack, and followed with her “Celia” album the next year.
Within minutes of taking the stage at Brooklyn’s sold-out Warsaw to kick off her North American tour on Saturday night, it was clear that Savage has been hard at work over the past couple of years. She made her smooth entrance onstage, clad in a silk Fendi suit with a black fitted cap, and kicked off the set with “Save My Life,” the opening track on “Celia” and a fan favorite. Joined by a live band, jazz and R&B elements were sprinkled into the live renditions of each song. She’s a highly athletic performer as well, strutting across the stage and even into the crowd at one point, all while maintaining solid breath control and staying in key. She even shifted one of her signature hits, the midtempo ballad “Dangerous Love,” into a lower register.
Savage engaged the crowd throughout the show, singling out one female fan by saying, “What is your name?… Your name is Princess…? No, you must be the Queen! You’re too beautiful to just be a princess!” While Savage probably could have played a bigger venue, Warsaw enabled the singer to have a more intimate experience with die-hard fans.
Later in the show, Tiwa showed love to Brooklyn, paraphrasing the opening verse of Notorious B.I.G.’s classic “Juicy,” by singing, “Remember Rappin’ Duke?/ You never thought that Afrobeats would take it this far.” The reference not only paid tribute to Biggie and Brooklyn, it also drew a parallel between hip-hop’s emergence and the rise of Afrobeats across the globe.
Savage ended the show with her biggest song to date, “Somebody’s Son,” the recording of which features R&B singer Brandy and is included on her 2021 EP “Water & Garri.” As she performed the song, nearly every camera light in the venue was shining.