Kehlani @ Astor Theatre
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
It’s difficult to pigeonhole Kehlani’s Perth leg of her SweetSexySavage tour. Albeit that it was unexpectedly brilliant – but the way it shifted through genres, politics and style was what ultimately ruled the night. Supported by JOY, her DJ Noodles and an unexpected appearance of local rapper Ziggy Ramos, the stage of the Astor managed to play the punter for a host of surprises.
The night kicked off with a brief support set from JOY. Meandering through the keys and pushing soulful vocals and a lilting demeanour, her set was an interesting departure from the more EDM-centric performances she has pushed in the past, instead opting for emotional ballads and loud, swaying guitar solos of the backing band. Exclaiming her gratitude to the early crowd, it was great to see her in a more chilled setting, even if the short duration of the set was a major downer.
Not knowing who was actually supporting on the night, once JOY left the stage punters were probably expecting a brief and brisk encounter from Kehlani. However, acting as a pseudo hype-woman and acting as DJ – Noodles threw out some 90s R n’ B tracks to get the crowd warmed up. With the rinsers’ rinsin’, and hip hop beat pushin’ half the crowd had the stamina and flexibility of Olympiad gymnasts, getting low into multitude of abstract bodily contortions (Australian Olympic Team talent scouts, take note.). Slowing moving the DJ set to more contemporary tunes with samples from MIGOS and Drake, the venue was starting to get fiery.
Screams were abounding from punters when Kehlani emerged onto the stage, armed with two back up dancers and a live band, she was ready to let loose. Feeling like a fusion between Alicia Keys and Beyoncé, it was pure, infectious R&B. The choreography was impressive, you couldn’t comprehend how many hours would have actually gone into rehearsals for the show – it was pure visual spectacle.
But it was neither of these aspects that set this gig apart from other touring shows from major artists. It wasn’t the visual spectacle of the back-up dancers, the gratuitous nostalgia of the R n’ B genre or even the feel-good vibes of the show overall, it was something deeper and more conceptual.
Halfway through Kehlani’s set there was an unexpected appearance from local rapper Ziggy Ramos. With Kehlani exclaiming she had been acting like a ‘little sister’ to them over the last 24 hours of being in Perth. Both donning ‘Justice for Elijah’ shirts and detailing indigenous issues, it all culminated with the entire crowd of the Astor raising their fists in solidarity for Elijah – the sight was unexplainably liberating.
In an era of tight deadlines, aggressive tour cycles, the threat of artists skipping Perth and just outright industry cynicism in general. With many artists just zipping in and out of Perth quickly as a quick stopover to the Eastern states, the fact that Kehlani took time to soak in the local scene (even just briefly) and empathise with local indigenous issues whilst also outlining her Native American Heritage and giving a shit was nothing short of fucking refreshing.
Finishing up with a generous encore containing songs like Thank You and CRZY, Keylani threw out one last physical feat of choreography. Thanking the two backing dancers and her backing band/production amidst rapturous applause, the Perth crowd at the Astor was left with more than a visual spectacle and good music – but a reminder that touring artists can care.
Photos by Mia Campbell-Foulkes