Kelis @ HMV Institute, 5th October 2010

The support, for tonight’s show, is Natalia Kills; a recent signing by Will.I.Am. She enters the stage wearing red bra and pants covered with a Macintosh and flanked by two equally scantily clad dancers, and proceeds to launch into the track Zombie. Kills describes herself as “darker sounding pop music”; however, I would call it dross and it gets worse the longer she is on stage.

She is doing herself a favour by wearing very little, as it detracts from how awful her songs are, and, furthermore, it appears that she is miming whilst prancing around. Luckily she is only on stage for twenty minutes, so, after many jokes about it being an audition for X Factor and buying a drink, she is gone.

After an hour wait, Kelis takes to the stage in an elegant purple dress to the pumping beats of Scream, singing into a pulsating microphone; the only thing missing is the heart backdrop which she has had at other venues. Unfortunately, as the song proceeds, the vocals get lost in the mix. Admittedly, the basement area of The Institute (previously the Barfly) has always struggled with acoustics; but this is more than that, the live drums and samples drown Kelis’ voice out.

Her latest album, Flesh Tone, is a departure from her forward thinking hip-hop into the land of electronica, which is being showcased tonight. The set segues smoothly from track to track, emulating the album, including tracks such as 22nd Century and Brave, as Kelis majestically parades around the stage.

The majority of the crowd are loving this new direction, encouraged by Kelis’ claim that she is here to dance. However, I am struggling with the lack of genre bending hip-hop especially when such great songs, like Millionaire, are transformed into dance tracks. Furthermore, Milkshake is blended with Madonna’s Holiday and criminally shortened. A sultry version of Terence Trent D’Arby’s Sign Your Name, finally demonstrates the true capabilities of Kelis’ voice, which flows flawlessly into the beautiful Get Along With You, which turn out to be the highlights of the evening.

The incredibly short set, finishes with the thumping Acapella and an array of ticker tape; inciting the audience into a dancing frenzy. After a brief exit, Kelis returns to the stage, dedicating Song For The Baby to her son followed by an authentic version of Trick Me, which she refreshingly leaves in its original state. Kelis leaves the stage to overwhelming applause, which I feel is a little too generous as she hasn’t even played an hour and, considering the price of the tickets, I do feel cheated. I saw Kelis perform a number of years ago, when she blew my mind, and I was so excited about seeing her play again, yet, leaving the Institute, I am left utterly deflated. It is not that she is a poor performer, but her new musical direction leaves me cold, and it is a shame that she didn’t include more of her back catalogue to extend her set to demonstrate her versatility.

Review – Toni Woodward

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