Kelela // Live Review

Kelela feat

XOYO – May 26th

It’s not often that you get to see two of the most exciting emerging artists from both sides of the Atlantic for the bargain price of £9 but that’s exactly what we got XOYO on Tuesday night. So firstly, if you didn’t buy a ticket, you most definitely missed out.

First up representing the UK side of things was Georgia. The London singer and multi-instrumentalist had bloggers frothing at the mouth when she dropped ‘Move Systems‘ earlier this year. Originally a session musician for the likes of Kwes and Kate Tempest, she wrote and recorded her debut EP Come In entirely herself and was quickly signed up by Domino thereafter.

Imagine if The Knife, M.I.A and Micachu & The Shapes got in a fight then you be close to the vibe that Georgia exudes.

Tonight she’s in a boisterous mood. She stares down camera phones filming her, standing on the very edge of the stage, goading for a reaction. Despite her diminutive stature, the bravado fills the room, as do the songs. It’s a riotous mix of colossal synth hooks, clattering beats and booming bass that cascades out of the speakers. Imagine if The Knife, M.I.A and Micachu & The Shapes got in a fight then you be close to the vibe that Georgia exudes. By the end of the set the audience are bumping along to ‘Move Systems’ like she’s headlining. She probably will be in a year’s time.

What the two artists performing tonight share is an ambition for big pop songs using different sounds. They’re both aiming for something unique within a pop medium. Kelela takes this approach even further tonight with nearly half the tracks from the Cut 4 Me mixtape being remixed in various ways.

The California native performs completely solo, without any backing musicians or dancers, but it feels bigger than a club PA set. This is largely to do with Kelela’s star quality. She just has it. The way she floats round the stage, holds a pose, hits every note, it’s like she’s been sent as gift from a far flung planet to please us mere mortals for just one evening.

The nexus of Cut 4 Me was the fusion of British grime and 90s American RnB. It had a steely allure, accentuated by Kelela’s velvety vocals, broken by samples of glass shattering or handguns popping. It’s a shame there aren’t more of the original takes tonight as the mixtape has been a word-of-mouth success, so for many this would have been the first time to see the songs live. In her defence, Kelela says she wants to keep things fresh, and some of the remixes blow the roof off, in particular an unnamed remix of ‘Keep It Cool’ has the crowd jumping up and down within seconds of the beat dropping whilst a heavy, industrious version of her collaboration with Bok Bok ‘Melba’s Call’ is another stand out. Watching her now, it’s hard to imagine how she will top Cut 4 Me (her debut album is expected in the autumn) but whatever comes next, tonight certainly whet our appetite.

@woodywhyte