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Live Review: Tori Kelly – 16th March 2020 – Roundhouse, London, UK

4 min read

Tori Kelly – the song-writing, record-producing and arguably one of the most revolutionary musical sensations to have come out of the last decade – returned to the UK capital this Monday to grace her fans with the latest concert on the European leg of her ‘Inspired By True Events’ tour. As to be expected, the entire evening was truly something to behold; a fact owing thanks to Kelly’s well-known powerhouse vocals, acoustic guitar, and a setlist featuring an amalgam of classic tracks from her fondly-remembered EPs, and more recently renowned hits from her critically-acclaimed studio albums.

Reaching the queue at the Roundhouse, the hosting venue situated only a stone’s throw away from London’s Chalk Farm tube station, the building anticipation became overwhelmingly infectious (we’re gonna swiftly and respectfully move past that one). The air of the auditorium vibrated with the tangible hum of excited fans waiting to bask in the brilliance they were about to witness; the wonder that is the California-born starlet’s impeccable pipes and finger-picking goodness.

South London’s Jake Isaac and Reading’s Etham, Kelly’s supporting acts for the show, got the evening off to a great start, providing for us listeners an incredibly raw demonstration of some sweet strings and sharp vocal dynamics. Each left us with a thought to bear in mind: Isaac, a call for “positive vibes”; Etham, a reminder to the audience that, and I quote, “As crazy as the world is at the moment, let’s make the most of tonight” (“Don’t you worry, Etham. We most certainly intend to…”). Be sure that both boys went down a treat.

Then suddenly, it happened. The moment we had all been risking Coronavirus for.

The melismatic marvel made her way to the stage in a prompt and professional manner, and was greeted by an uproar of adoring onlookers from the pit and stands of the refinedly-shaped venue. It’s ironic how Kelly chose to begin with such a showstopper, kick-starting her set with a stunning performance of Change My Mind, the first single to be released from the new album. Once the initial affirming screams had subsided, the singer transitioned seamlessly into Language, another Inspired By single and a track which perfectly showcased the artist’s awe-inspiring vocal agility, followed soon after by a moving rendition of Hollow.

Sorry Would Go A Long Way, Inspired By’s second single that was released last Summer, proved to be a particularly poignant moment in the show, as Kelly’s co-writer Bruno Major joined her on stage to treat the arena to a raw, acoustic presentation of their masterpiece. And if this wasn’t reason enough for fans to feel like they were getting their money’s worth, the virtuoso took the whole venue to church during a performance of her Grammy-award-winning song ‘Never Alone’; a number towards the end of which the audience were encouraged to repeat the song’s refrain while Kelly ad-libbed accordingly and with the utmost conviction. You’ve got to love a bit of audience participation!

Around mid-way through the set, Kelly decided to ask the crowd – and I’m assuming rhetorically since there’s no way she could’ve been being serious – whether they were “ready for some throwbacks?”. By the exclamatory reaction, it’s safe to say that “Duh?!” was the general consensus. She proceeded to adorn our ears with some superfan favourites such as All In My Head, Dear No One and Paper Hearts; tracks which harken back to the performer’s more formative EP days. The die-hards among us were revelling in the nostalgic warmth; the atmosphere elevated by subtle stage lighting that shifted slowly between soft hues of purple and pink and blue. The minimalist nature of the scene was most pleasing to the senses, and proved yet again how less can synaesthetically be so much more.

Finally, Kelly closed the show with the much-loved single from her debut album, Nobody Love. The volatile motion of the track’s melody served to demonstrate how effortlessly the star can travel through her extensive range, while her unforced vocal precision and crisp tone can only be described as celestial in origin.

In summary, it was an honour to witness such a talent as Tori Kelly; to experience live perhaps one of the most impressive musical masters of our time. The emotional journey of the concert felt like a thrilling joyride, what with all those riffs, trills and runs (SO MANY RUNS!). Her voice is like spiritual comfort food; it leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling of relief and satisfaction inside, as if you’ve finally returned home after a long and stressful time away.

In short, if you’re looking for a feast for the senses and a healing for the soul, I have only one thing to say to you: Tori. Kelly. Live.

Setlist:
Change Your Mind
Language
Hollow
Pretty Fades
Actress/Kid I Used to Know
Never Alone
Coffee
Confetti
All In My Head
Paper Hearts
Dear No One
Unbreakable Smile
Two Places
Funny
Sorry Would Go A Long Way
Your Words
City Dove
Hallelujah/I Was Made for the Loving You:
Should’ve Been Us
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing
Nobody Love

  • All photos by Sam Etzioni