The first thing one has to know about Kali Uchis is that she’s a boss. She moves through the world with a live fast, never die attitude. In English and Spanish, she declares her independence and sings of riches. She infuses all that swagger into her take on R&B, bossa nova, hip-hop, and Brazilian jazz.
With confidence, she delivered a steamy, sensual performance. She called out wealth inequality and the exploitative nature of the music industry on “Your Teeth in My Neck.” “Loner” and “Dead to Me” were self-explanatory based on their titles alone. Fair labour practices and autonomy are important but not the sexiest topics. All the same, though, Kali Uchis twerked, sometimes while squatting. She crawled around the stage and seated herself on a chair atop rotating semi- circular steps. On those same steps, she reclined and unfurled a sultry cover of “Creep” by Radiohead. The temperature continued to rise with “After the Storm,” her collaboration with Bootsy Collins and Tyler, the Creator. The tone shifted with Jorja Smith, even though she relented on her usual politics. Her criticisms of police brutality and racial profiling often boil over into spoken dialogue with the audience. But last night, she let her music do most of the talking. Even her stage lighting was more subtle than usual. Red, blue, and white lights flashed but did not spin like those of a police cruiser’s during “Blue Lights.”
Smith’s mix of R&B, soul, and jazz came with plenty of live instrumental chops. The low-lit “Wandering Romance” built to a shining crescendo. Her band also broke it down on “Lost & Found,” where everyone had their moment to lead with solos. Her set was heavy on grooves, particularly on “Where Did I Go?” and “On My Mind.” “Teenage Fantasy” and “On Your Own” brought high drama and tension. Although the soul-searching “February 3rd” deals with losing and finding onself, musically, it offered a chance to chill. For the encore, Kali joined Jorja for their collaboration, “Tyrant,” from the former’s breakthrough album, last year’s Isolation. They also covered “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child. On that note, Kali and Jorja ended in a tight embrace as golden confetti drifted from the ceiling.
review by Leslie Chu