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Rina Sawayama live in London: pop icon in waiting throws eclectic rock party

The pop artist delivers an electrifying spectacle of anthems from her studio debut in an arena ready performance

5.0 rating

By Hollie Geraghty

Rina Sawayama performs live at the Roundhouse
Rina Sawayama performs live at the Roundhouse (Picture: Jordan Curtis Hughes)

How do you describe a performer like Rina Sawayama when she opens with a rock show and ends with a thumping rave? The pop artist’s studio debut ‘Sawayama’ – released in 2020 and now finally being toured – was a fearless masterclass in just how far the boundaries of pop could be pushed. Making big swings from operatic rock and nu-metal to clubby bops and introspective ballads, the record established Sawayama as a true musical chameleon.

Performing ‘Sawayama’ live, then, proves to be something of an eclectic storm. At her Camden Roundhouse show (November 17), the Japanese-British star is manically whipping her ponytail to hardcore punk rock one minute, and the next is voguing in a throwback to noughties pop choreography.

After opening with the epic ‘Dynasty’, Sawayama then rocks out to the manic metal riffs of ‘STFU!’ – showcasing her sensational vocals that range from lengthy screams to soaring high notes. “Microaggressions are so exhausting, am I right?” she huffs as the track closes.

The pop star runs through cycles of rock and rave, rousing the crowd with dance single ‘Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)’ before taking it down for ‘Akasaka Sad’, a track she performs with sultry melodrama and swagger in equal measure. Breezing through the lighter ‘Snakeskin’ and EP track ‘Cyber Stockholm Syndrome’, she strategically saves the records biggest dance moments, launching into a pop party with ‘Paradisin’’ and the feel good ‘Love Me 4 Me’. But the tracklist also concedes a phones-in-the-sky moment with ‘Chosen Family’. For just the second time of the tour Sawayama decides to treats fans with new song ‘Catch Me In The Air’, an angsty but nostalgic track about her relationship with her mum who is in the audience.

“I know that we’re one big queer family here so I wanna make sure that we’re dancing before we go,” she says before playing glowy track ‘Cherry’, adding “This is my coming out song!”. Not only is Sawayama’s solidarity with her LGBTQ+ fans loud and personal, but the crowd is hungry for her politics. At one poignant interlude after ‘Fuck This World’, the glitchy neon backdrop transitions to a climate change montage, depicting environmental disasters. Another clip follows of MP Zarah Sultana as she talks about ending inequality, met by hopeful cheers. 

There’s no room for dead air under the Roundhouse dome, and any moment the singer takes the catch her breath is quickly filled with chants of her name. Though at one point the singer requests a pause of the show and asks security to help an audience member, a palpably sensitive responsibility at the moment.

As the show closes out on a euphoric ‘Free Woman’ dedicated to Britney Spears, Sawayama is primed and ready to retire from rising star status and graduate to fully-fledged global pop icon. On the final night of the UK and Ireland shows she performs like it’s the tour opener – meticulously rehearsed and never relenting in energy. She’s bursting at the seams of the intimate venues she’s played on the Dynasty Tour, proving her pop prowess that could easily take on a much bigger crowd. Someone get this star in an arena.

Rina Sawayama played:



‘Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)’

‘Akasaka Sad’


‘Cyber Stockholm Syndrome’


‘Love Me 4 Me’

‘Bad Friend’

‘Fuck This World’

‘Who’s Gonna Save U Now?’

‘Tokyo Love Hotel’

‘Chosen Family’

‘Catch Me In The Air’




‘Free Woman’