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Gig Review: Nabihah Iqbal at Neck of the Woods

Nabihah Iqbal at Neck of the Woods 

Wednesday, January 17th 2024 

Photographs by Álvaro Fernández 

Words by Louise Morris 

It was a hot and sticky Auckland summers night. The sun stood out strongly between the sun-baked buildings, signalling the much anticipated return after a long, cold and wet year. The air was thick and stuffy as I walked along K Road, but I didn’t mind. Memories of spending hot summer nights in my carefree youth flooded back to me- sipping ginger beer, rolling down hills, and basking in the sun without a care in the world.

Despite the mugginess hanging in the air and my clothes sticking to my skin, a feeling of anticipation and excitement permeated the air as I walked down the steps of the venue. Neck of the Woods is covered from floor to ceiling in posters of previous gigs, and even the bathrooms hosted an admirable collection.

Shortly after I settled into my spot close to the stage and (unfortunately) right behind the smoke machine, the ethereal presence of opening act cc(tv) graced the stage. Her opening song carried a sound similar to a mesmerising siren, drawing the audience into a trance. Immediately as the first notes hit the air, the audience gravitated towards the stage, like moths drawn to a singular light in the dark. Her performance unfolded like a carefully crafted symphony, transporting the audience into another world, echoing around the room. The applause that followed after each song felt delayed, almost as if the crowd dared not to break the peace, needing a moment to emerge from the enchantment.

Then came Nabihah Iqbal, alongside band member Al, kicking off their performance with In Light, the first track off her recently released 2023 album “Dreamer.” Right from the start, their performance was a blend of shoegaze and atmospheric dreamy pop, captivating the audience from start to finish.

Hailing from London, Nabihah holds an impressive bundle of careers, seamlessly transitioning from a legal professional into a musician, producer, DJ and radio host for NTS.

Nabihah performed many songs from her album "Dreamer," a musical reflection of the challenging experiences she went through in 2020. Describing those events as tumultuous, the music echoed the complex emotions she experienced through that time. Her storytelling abilities invited the audience to explore emotions and share a deep sense of vulnerability. Perhaps influenced by her past role as a paralegal, Nabihah has an eloquent way with weaving words.

One striking aspect of the evening was the diverse crowd. Unlike some of the previous gigs I had been to recently, I had noticed this time that quite a few people attended the event by themselves. Throughout the gig, Nabihah cultivated a shared space, and fostered a unique connection between the audience and herself. Although we came and left as strangers, many flying solo, within the few hours we spent together we were immersed in a collective precious memory hard to forget.