Performing in front of thousands upon thousands of festival attendees, all of whom ranged in age, Nelly Furtado took the stage for the first in the SF Bay Area since 2007 — confirming her resurgence in pop culture as of late.
There are icons in the music industry who exist in tandem with cornerstone memories of our childhood and early adulthood; they exude a sort of communal nostalgia. There’s Beyoncé, of course. Some can rightfully argue Taylor Swift. Usher, for sure. Mary J. Blige. Mariah Carey. Justin Timberlake. The list goes on, albeit not for too long.
Nelly Furtado — the celebrated Canadian songbird behind chart-topping hits like “I’m Like a Bird,” “Promiscuous,” and “Maneater” — is inscribed in permanent marker on that aforementioned index. But like many celebrated artists of the aughts, Furtado left her all-consuming fame for years.
Between her best-selling 2006 EP Loose, which included radio hits (remember those?) that defined a generation of liberated teenagers and early twentysomethings, and Furtado’s next English album The Spirit Indestructible, six years had passed of mainly silence. (However, it’s worth mentioning that her debut Spanish LP Mi Plan released in 2009 deserves more attention in her polished, attention-grabbing catalog.)
That album failed to garner its successor’s commercial and cultural success. The sound was considered overly positive and lacked the shapeshifting, mesmeric production Loose featured on nearly every track, largely due to Timbaland’s hand in producing the project.
The Spirit Indestructible debuted at number 79, selling almost 6,000 copies in its first week in the United States; Loose, which debuted at number one, sold 219,000 copies.
Then The Ride, her sixth studio, came. It just as quickly left shortly after its release in 2017.
Furtado pulled back from music, punctuating the next five years with collaborated singles remastering her original works. It wasn’t until July 2022 — marking a five-year performing hiatus for the Grammy-winner — that Furtado would again take the stage, joining fellow Canadian Drake on stage in Toronto, where they performed “Promiscuous” and “I’m Like a Bird.”
The performance couldn’t have come at a better, more catalyzing time. After years denoted by a global pandemic and political turmoil, Furtado’s music catalog reentered culture with an effervescent, warm, saccharin clasp — catapulting us back to a more care-free time where corded headphones dangled from iPods and cellphones folded in half.
Furtado’s TikTok is now the 44-year-old’s most-followed social media handle. Her EDM-heavy single, “Eat Your Man,” harkens back to “Maneater” — a cult-favorite hit of hers, to this day. She’s now a regular festival talent, podcast guest, and editorial muse.
The “Nellysance” — the career renaissance and rebirth Furtado’s fans have aptly called her resurgence into the cultural zeitgeist — is in full swing. And San Francisco welcomed it with open arms this past weekend at the Portola Music Festival.
Clad in all black, a reflective snake print pattern wrapping her top, Furtado stepped on stage minutes after 6 p.m. for her (criminally) short 50-minute set. It was her first time on a Bay Area stage since 2007; the crowd completely filled the music festival’s largest stage, stretching as far as the eye could see — cheering, howling, dancing as Furtado blended deep cuts like “No Hay Igual,” which was only featured in her 2021 expanded edition of Loose.
Many in the sea of warm bodies were emotional, smiling while their eyes were wetted from nostalgia. They weren’t alone, either; Furtado, herself, was visibly moved through the set. welled up
“Thank you so much,” she told the audience more than once. “I love you, for real. Thank you for being here. It means so much to me.”
Furtado’s vocal talent was on full display; she sang to no backtracks, putting her wide range and flying runs. Visuals included throughout her set played on an expansive screen, where snippets of past music videos for singles like “Promiscuous” and “Give It to Me” played in EDM edits.
Furtado’s fresh single produced with Dom Dolla, who briefly joined her on stage, played while short black-and-white videos of snakes were transposed onto lyrics from the song.
In what felt like the blink of an eye, Furtado capped her career-spanning performance with an encore of “Say It Right,” the present crowd still in a consensual chokehold, gripped by Furtado’s oozing nostalgia. Exiting the stage, Furtado again thanked the crowd, expressing her eternal gratitude for their support throughout the years.
Furtado is expected to release a new English album before the year’s end — a body of work she says will nod back to her transcendent Loose era. If this proves true, there’s little doubt that the “Nellysance” will continue… and hopefully return to San Francisco soon rather than later.
Feature image: Courtesy of Alive Coverage