It’s just over a year since Kehlani released their long-awaited second album ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’ and, in normal circumstances, a series of live outings for the record might’ve followed. For very obvious reasons the album followed a different path, and so tonight’s (May 11) livestream performance from the Oakland R&B star marks the first chance she’s had to bring the record to the stage. Fittingly, they’ve dubbed the show ‘It Was Live Until It Wasn’t’.
- READ MORE: Kehlani – ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’ review: a newly brooding sound takes the shine from their sparkling R&B
Being finally able to showcase ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’ live is an opportunity that Kehlani grabs with both hands, putting on a slick, stylish and cool show in a warehouse-like space dressed up to suit the record’s sensual sound. A big circular cut-out lining the back of the stage serves as a portal for a halo of blue light as the set makes its dramatic start, Kehlani and their band appearing as silhouettes before the darkness gradually subsides. As the light breaks through, ‘Toxic’ kicks things off; its sparse instrumentation and Kehlani’s honeyed vocals are warm and inviting. At others, the circle acts as a frame. When the star’s Suicide Squad soundtrack contribution ‘Gangsta’ revs into the set, she paces towards the camera from the middle of the arch, game face firmly on.
Simplicity is the key for this concert, and Kehlani wields it powerfully. It’s there in their surroundings, but also in their moves on the stage, sprinkled with hints of choreography, and effortlessly showing off the dancing skills she’s shied away from exhibiting in recent years. When Kehlani’s not gracefully grooving around, she’s lighting up the room with a constant smile. The artist’s musical chemistry with guitarist Lexii Frazier is just as charming as the pair take centre stage for the fingerpicked melodies at the heart of ‘Everybody Business’.
‘It Was Live Until It Wasn’t’ might be all about Kehlani, but she also uses it as an opportunity to shine a light on others, too. There’s their backing band, which highlights both the musicians who make up the line-up, and Kehlani’s commitment to empowering women. There are also a handful of guests, like the caramel-voiced Lucky Daye on ‘Can You Blame Me’ and the sax-toting Masego on ‘Hate The Club’. Later, 20-year-old Destin Conrad joins the party on ‘Open (Passionate)’. He’s introduced by the night’s main focus as their “little brother” and, after the doubt-filled track is over, he’s given the opportunity to perform his own song – a valuable moment for an artist at the beginning of their career.
“Hopefully by now you know my name,” Kehlani says after a rippling rendition of ‘Water’. “My name is Kehlani and I hope you’ve had a beautiful time.” It’s a humble end to a brilliant performance – one that serves as a welcome but unneeded reminder of the R&B icon’s compelling presence.
‘Change Your Life’
‘Can You Blame Me’
‘Hate The Club’
‘Nights Like This’