Kelela @ SWX, Bristol, 23/02/2018

KelelaKelela is every bit the superstar. Sporting a baggy white dress, spotlight zoned on her, she solitarily struts onto the SWX stage in Bristol. Before even a syllable has left her lips, she owns the stage with sheer prowess and power, engaging the crowd in an instant.

The route to this stardom wasn’t a short one; she first released a mixtape, CUT 4 ME, in 2013. Four years is a pretty long time to wait before releasing a proper debut album but it came at just the right time after Kelela had learned about the music industry and her place in it.

"LMK", a single from debut Take Me Apart, is a bold opener. She and her supporting singers synchronise movements as she gives us a glimpse into her stupendous vocal talent. More pop than R'n'B, the electro-flecked track is evidence of the Jam City production that fuses her soulful vocal with synths and handclaps.


Kelela continues with bass-heavy "Blue Light" but SWX can’t quite pack the sub-bass thunder and doesn’t give the track justice with what should be powerful synths along with plenty of party atmosphere. Up next, ‘Take Me Apart’ depicts an emotional struggle through a breakup, as Kelela belts it out with angst and strength. "Enough" is cut from the same cloth, revealing a level of vulnerability though Kelela emerges triumphant. Like honey, her vocal ranges are soulful, warm and sultry whether it’s an icy, electronic track or a rich, R'n'B number.

The singular spotlight acts as a nudging reminder of Kelela’s raw power. She may have been behind the mask of remixes and editing in the past, but she’s truly stood in the limelight for the Take Me Apart tour. Hair swishing and choreographed dances are thrown into the mix, with the occasional jangle of Kelela’s braid beads catching the mic.

Returning for an encore, Kelela enlivens the crowd with "Rewind". SWX is reverted to the club venue it typically is as the 90’s influenced, R'n'B banger brings the show to a close; a punchy reminder of Kelela’s musical range.

Kelela’s debut last year earned her the recognition she deserved, shining a spotlight on her unique R'n'B electro-pop mash-up. But she has the live stage presence too, owning it with raw femininity and emotion. It won’t be long before she’s selling out the larger venue, true superstar style.


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