Review | For musical world-builder Tinashe, a celebratory stop at 9:30 Club


On Tuesday night, Tinashe celebrated her 31st birthday with about 1,200 of her fans — from day ones to new ones — at a sold-out 9:30 Club. The evening was a celebration not just of the multi-hyphenate’s time on the planet but of the years she’s spent conjuring sounds in its atmosphere.

The festivities kicked off with a set by UNIIQU3, a DJ-producer-vocalist who is the leading proponent of Jersey club music. Serving as an MC in its purest sense, UNIIQU3 entreated the audience to get moving over a mix of her elastic percolations, heavy with bass and the genre’s trademark bed-squeak sample. She closed her set with her new “affirmation anthem,” “Price Going Up,” telling the crowd that, in 2024, “Everything is going up: Our confidence, our value and our price.”

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Dressed in neutral tones and a bubble coat, Tinashe took to the stage around 9 p.m. Throughout the hour-plus set that followed, she did not want for confidence, perhaps because she’s spent so much of her life onstage. After spending her teenage years in a girl group, she embarked on a solo career in 2011 and has been a steady presence on playlists since.

Backed by a quartet of male dancers, Tinashe showed off the lithe dance moves that she honed before her career began, with each bit of body-rolling and booty-shaking choreography receiving big cheers from the crowd. Occasionally, she performed on a riser — much to the satisfaction of those in the back — in front of a screen that broadcast geometry, liquid metal and her own visage.

Tinashe has been a musical world-builder across six albums that serve as a survey of the last decade’s confluence of rap-inflected R&B and underground electronic music. Over varied productions, her breathy melodies and wispy harmonies are, at their best, in the vein of Aaliyah and Janet Jackson. But as with any experiment, not every hypothesis proves correct: Sometimes the haze of a production dips into sludginess and Tinashe’s gentle voice is trapped like a dinosaur in a tar pit.

In a career-spanning set that featured more than two dozen songs, the vibe changed as if determined by mood ring, from the woozy, lava lamp R&B of “Talk to Me Nice” to kiss-offs such as “Throw a Fit,” on which she sounds like a rap-game Veruca Salt (or Miss ’Nashe, if you’re nasty). In the middle of the set, she showed off how powerful the combination of her voice and vision can be, whether it be over funky grooves from producer Kaytranada (“The Worst in Me,” “Unconditional”) or in the ’90s-esque fairy tale “Story of Us.”

When Tinashe mentioned that it was her birthday, the crew brought out a cake and the crowd joined in to sing “Happy Birthday.” As a party favor, she performed her breakthrough — and still biggest — hit, “2 On,” a flirty flex that still goes, a decade on. She closed the night with a similar song, “All Hands on Deck,” but the lyric “Kiss the old me goodbye she’s dead and gone” left listeners wondering, which Tinashe is dead and gone, and what will the next reincarnation sound like?



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