Words by Michael Hutchinson.
She may have been a little late to the stage for her Melbourne gig at Prince Bandroom, but that’s the only foot Kelis put wrong all night. Sizzling in a sassy sequinned number and opening with a cover of ‘Feeling Good’ (the original made famous some 50 years ago by Nina Simone) her smoky voice had the crowd hooked in an instant.
‘Milkshake,’ possibly her most well-known track, that exposed her to her biggest audience (in more ways than one), was amongst a few selected tracks granted a subtle makeover to tie in with the 1960’s jazz club mood created by Kelis with her six-piece band, the sound which largely encompasses her sixth studio album Food.
A majority of the nights’ set came from her newest offering, which harnessed as much funk and soul as humanly possible. There was plenty of encouragement for the audience to join her, whether it be singing or dancing. She was attractive and exhaustive in motion and unafraid to let her hair down. I wanted to take her home and make her pancakes.
The set was full of highlights; the pitch-perfect boiling squeal in ‘Cobbler’ sent shivers down spines, ‘Jerk Ribs’ featured an effervescent trumpet, ‘Rumble’ fostered plenty of Motown groove with funky horns and ‘Friday Fish Fry’ dipped into borderline country and western. Through it all Kelis kept it tight and the crowd had their work cut out keeping up with the pace.
Some of her most notable tracks (the iconic ‘Caught Out There’ & ‘Bossy’) were overlooked for this particular tour, as were most of her non-album collaborations (including ‘Not In Love’ with Enrique Iglesias, though I may have been the only one in the room wanting to hear it). Bucking that trend was a feature of Calvin Harris’ ‘Bounce,’ complete with brilliant flute solo, and a slither of the Crookers-produced ‘No Security.’
Her encore of British poet Labi Siffre’s ‘Bless The Telephone’ and ‘Floyd’ were a delicate finale in comparison to the rest of the night, and finally a chance to catch ones breathe.
Given her rich back catalogue there was always going to be songs to miss the set, which the crowd were all too happy to point out. But Kelis took that in her stride and was a nothing short of delightful charming, interacting at every possible moment and indulging in stories behind the songs and of her significant career. In a career that has spanned genres including urban crawl, club EDM and now soul, Kelis is a modern day chameleon who can lay claim to success with each risk she’s taken.
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