The Fader described Kelela’s album as the work of someone who, after a period of struggle, has become in-tune with all parts of herself. Last Tuesday night at Houston’s White Oak Music Hall, the singer proved the statement true as she preformed one of the most effortlessly hypnotic concerts I’ve ever attended.
The concert opened up with Lafawndah, a siren voiced half Iranian/half Egyptian singer who grew up in Paris and Mexico where she developed a love for salsa. I’ll admit I was startled from time to time when she would sing, her controlled wailing both frightening and beautiful, stunning the crowd into silence.She followed up with a few more songs surrounded by somber, house music like beats which reminded me of a Middle Eastern kind of like FKA Twigs. She would pause in between songs explaining her music to the crowd and the process behind making them. The self-taught producer was charming, projecting an almost childlike innocence as she spoke to us about peace, human kindness, and the feminine mystique – something that seemed to not be common in this “strange country” she said with a confused smile.
Shortly after, smoke-filled the stage and dark blue lights shined from above as two beautiful women with waist length braids came on stage, swaying to the beat of “Waitin'”. We could hear Kelela’s soft voice humming from backstage before singing the beginning of the song, finally stepping into the light in a street styled, white sweater dress with cuts on the sides paired with white boots. The beads decorating her short cut dreads shined as she stood quietly, taking in the crowd that had grown since doors opened.
She continued with “Blue Light”, dancing in short, Solange-esque choreography while in sync with her two backup singers. Taking a break from the military moves, she followed up with “Floor Show” and “Rewind” a throwback to her Cut 4 Me mixtape and Hallucinogen album before going back to Take Me Apart, singing the first line of Aaliyah’s “Let Me Know” before blending the song into her own song “LMK”. The energy from the crowd was wonderful.
With enough space to comfortably dance and enjoy the show at the same time, even Kelela mentioned how she loved Houston for being so genuine and making this one of the best shows she’s done while on tour.
She wowed the crowd with her vocals, hitting all the notes and more on “Frontline”, “Take Me Apart”, “Enough” and “Jupiter”. She playfully added new ad-libs to “S.O.S” rolling her eyes and flipping her chandelier decorated dreads as she pretended to speak on the phone.
After dancing around to “Truth or Dare”, and slowing it down to “Bluff”, she left the stage thanking us all for coming out and helping her put on a great show but the crowd wasn’t having it. After a few minutes of screaming her name, she came back on stage with her band and preformed “Cherry Coffee” and “All the Way Down”. Kelela has come a long way from her Cut 4 Me mixtape, catching everyone’s attention with her new album Take Me Apart, recent Calvin Klein campaign, and more.The Ethiopian electronic/R&B singer has been making moves working her way to the top and isn’t going to be stopping anytime soon. This was one of the best concerts I have ever attended, and I’m not saying that out of bias. There’s something pure about connecting with an artists and relating to their music, but something even more holy seeing them perform it live and being able to feel it in your bones. That’s exactly how genuine and brilliant Kelela was and I encourage everyone to experience something that transcendent in their lifetime.
Photos below are by Junior Fernandez
Bethel is a senior at the University of Houston studying Journalism and International studies. You can find her fighting for her life at a concert or obsessing over music at some coffee shop. Follow @bloobart for weird tweets