Rarely has the title of an artist’s debut album rang true throughout their career. Rarely, but not never. Kaleidoscope by Kelis came out in 1999 and she must have known what her future would hold because every release by her since has been a myriad of colors, flavors and, most importantly, offering a vivid chapter of a great artist. Should have expected as much from the ‘first girl to scream on a track’, which she did on her very first single “Caught Out There.”
Never would have thought it would be more than a decade and a half later before I would first see her perform live, yet there I was, right behind the sound board at the House of Blues San Diego. I watched, mesmerized, as she made her way to the front of the stage and start ‘Birds flyyyyin’ high’ with the beautifully husky voice I’d loved through the years. Chills.
Promoting her latest effort FOOD, Kelis transports us from her gorgeous take on Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” to the opening track “Breakfast.” This is where it resonated that she may have progressed beyond her ‘mainstream phase’ but she is wise enough to maintain pop sensibilities that make a good catchy record. Case in point are the ‘Oooh ahhh, oooo, ooooh, ahhhs’ in the opening of “Breakfast” that had the audience singing along immediately even if they weren’t familiar with the record. Her evolved mix of throwback soul and modern folk suit her funky, eclectic style.
Kelis seamlessly segued between her catalog and new material, joined by a gorgeous horn section, back up vocalist, and rounded out by the keyboard, guitar, and drums. The live instrumentation added texture to the electronic sounds of “Millionaire”, “Trick Me” and even her staple “Milkshake.” The highlight for me was hearing her sing not one, but two, of my all-time favorite songs that just happen to be from her debut album: “Get Along With You” and “Good Stuff.” Had she added fave of faves “Suspended” it would have been too much and I would have gone into an immediate fanboy meltdown (alas, another time Kelis!).
Her smoky vocals deliver her through the jazzy lows of new break up anthem “Rumble” and ear shattering highs of “Cobbler” where she further showcases her ability to switch between styles and sounds. She even reworked “A Capella” and “4th of July (Fireworks)” off of her last dance album Flesh Tone to fit comfortably in the live band atmosphere.
Also worth mentioning was the impressive opener Son Little whose music recalled something in between Frank Ocean and Jimi Hendrix. I will be on the lookout for more info on him as the year goes by.
If you take anything from reading this, know that, basically, Kelis can do no wrong and will continue to surprise and put out great music whether you’re paying attention to her or not. My recommendation is that you do, you’ll be much happier! Catch her live if you can and also check out FOOD, out now on Ninja Tune.
– Submitted by Tristan Bolden, Music Design