Kelela Did That™ at The Middle East Downstairs

Photo credit: Lindsey Anderson

After spending weeks singing ‘Blue Light’ & ‘Truth or Dare’ into an orange wide tooth comb, the time had come for me to hear these bops live. On a disrespectfully cold November in Cambridge, I attended my first Kelela show and my soul left my body. The artist who I’d been incessantly praising for months, took the stage of the Middle East downstairs and truly did THAT.

After Lafawndah opened the show with one of the strongest sets I’ve experienced this fall, it was clear that this was going to be one of those gigs you’d be mad at yourself for missing.

Kelela’s band entered first; picking up where Lafawndah left off and continued to warm up the stage for Kelela.  The singer remained hidden but very much present; the sound of her crystals clinking together heard over the microphone. She sauntered onto the stage; riffing and showcasing the flawless vocals that earned her the title of a sold out show at the Middle East Downstairs.  She sang tracks from her most recent release ‘Take Me Apart’ with ease; hitting every note and choosing lucky audience members for solo serenades. The tracks that so many of us were used to listening to during commutes and in bedrooms sounded even fuller with the live band and occasional ad-libs.  

A personal favorite was the skit to introduce ‘LMK.’ As a child that was raised on skit-heavy R&B, the phone call skit is something that will always make me lose my mind in the best way. To introduce ‘LMK,’ Kelela used that iconic skit; telling an indecisive partner that the question of wanting to come over or not wasn’t rocket science and that whatever the conclusion, they should just LET HER KNOW.

She expressed immense gratitude to long time supporters and included fan favorites from previous records ‘Hallucinogen’ and ‘Cut 4 Me’ for the Day Ones. There wasn’t a moment during the show where folks weren’t singing along to every song; it was supremely heartwarming to hear all these voices showing up and showing out for such an incredible vocalist & lyricist.

The Middle East Downstairs was truly transformed and blessed on that night; a show that people will reminisce about for years to come and will routinely reference on Throwback Thursdays.  Fully intending to be extra as hell, the Kelela show cleared my skin and raised my credit score. If she pulls up to  your city, get to that gig sis.