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Review Wed Jul 08 2015

Kehlani Re-Invents Sultry R&B @ Lincoln Hall

"You guys know this is my first show right?!"

Under the stark spotlights at Lincoln Hall on July 7, a bubbly Kehlani smiled wide to a crowd of squealing fans, as if she had been waiting to ask that question for awhile.

Tonight, the sunny, soulful R&B up-and-comer is kicking off her inaugural headlining tour in Chicago to promote her impeccable new mixtape, You Should Be Here, featuring vulnerable ballads and confident kiss-offs. Bringing us on her emotional journey through relationships long lost, she provided her bright, cascading melodies, and breezy, shimmering synths to the eventful live show, proving there's a new 20-year-old face to the evolving genre.

As more types of music dipped their toes in R&B over the years, most mainstream iterations fell into one of three categories: glamdolls singing sultry pop melodies (Banks, Broods), emotional vocal runs sampled atop EDM beats (Rihanna, Tinashe) or rappers mumbling sensual hooks (Drake, The Weeknd) --all featuring slowed tempos and murky, hypnotic croons.

Kehlani has brought this trend back to its signature delivery, pairing a modern approach with a talent well beyond her years.

With a sprightly pair of backup dancers at her side, the Oakland, Calif. native and "America's Got Talent" finalist soared through her popular kiss-off tracks such as "N----s" and "Jealous" at full force. To complement her '90s-inspired production, she brought back nostalgic staples of a pop/R&B concert: cheeky choreography, intermittent skits and even backing vocals. However, she modernized these techniques to appeal to an audience filled with selfie sticks, by keeping the lyrics resonant, moves smooth and jokes relevant.

After all the dancing, Kehlani asked the audience if she could take a break. "OK this is the part when I go back and eat a bunch of food and DJ Mama Noodles plays you a bunch of tracks," she said as she smirked and sauntered across the stage.

A few seconds into the intermission, Towkio, a rapper from local SaveMoney crew, appeared onstage, leaving the crowd to erupt in applause. That is, until, a familiar squawk was played throughout the speakers, as Chance the Rapper peeked in from backstage, forcing the selfie sticks to wave around in sheer hysterics.

Later, Kehlani reappeared to perform some of her more intimate tracks, often only backed by just a piano chord. On "The Letter," she sang the ambiguous lyrics "Your words were supposed to get me through my heart ache/ Maybe I didn't deserve you. Maybe I just couldn't cure you" until she suddenly gets more specific with whom she's addressing, leaving a heart-wrenching detail to near the end of the song: "Every girl needs a mother." While it was even astounding to witness her ability to belt bouncing scales across the massive venue, the crowd was still buzzing over the surprise cameo that no one could take it seriously enough to stay quiet.

Eventually, Chance was signaled to join Kehlani back onstage to perform their energetic duet, "The Way," while they both flirted with each other, winking and batting their eyes.

While she's able to show us her wounded side, she's not weak. She's simply bringing us back to the genre's main purpose: emotion.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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