The show took place at Heaven, a large space under the arches of Charing Cross station. Support came from the honeyed vocals of Larry B, whose poised yet slightly nervy performance of the 5 Sad Songs EP was well-received by the early crowd, and LA-based artist Tiffany Gouché, whose soulful voice, racy lyrics and playful stage presence were an ideal warm-up for the crowd of trendy and fairly sedentary 20-somethings.
Kelela began her performance offstage, breathily singing the opening lines of "Waitin'" as her band stood poised, dressed in white with smoke curling around them. As she entered—a silhouette framed by dreads dripping with crystals—she radiated confidence. What followed was a 90-minute showcase of the vulnerability, sensuality, passion and strength that Kelela mastered in her debut LP, Take Me Apart.
Bathed in iridescent light and shrouded in white mist, Kelela worked her way through much that album, as well as tracks from the CUT 4 ME mixtape—"Go All Night (Let Me Roll)" and encore-closing "Bank Head"—and 2015's Hallucinogen EP. Halfway through "All The Way Down," Kelela cut to the darker Kahn remix to finish.
"London is where all the parts of me intersect," Kelela told the crowd after "Rewind." "I prepare my sets for you, you get what it means to have an R&B vocal with a gospel base, it's a different context for my performance." With a balance of humour and sincerity, she had the audience enchanted. Throughout the night though, quieter moments were punctured by bursting balloons that kept falling (unintentionally) from the ceiling. It was distracting to the point that Kelela said, "Those are not gun shots, feel safe." As she moved into Take Me Apart's lead single, "LMK," she laughed knowingly with the women in the room as she smirked and flicked her hair. "You either want to come over, or you don't...."
In her recent opinion piece for Resident Advisor, Kelela wrote: "There is a way that black women have expressed tenderness and have helped people around the world access that for themselves." She embodies this ability, using her music and her platform to talk about the "real shit" she's experiencing. Take Me Apart is a lesson in embracing your sexuality and your desires. Monday's show enforced this message.