Kelis at the O2 ABC, Glasgow, 3o June 2014.
Kelis Rogers born August 21, 1979 better known as simply, Kelis. In the midst of this gig, she talks about her first appearance in this part of the world in 1999, while she was still a teenager. A bloke from the crowd shouts out that he was there and that she played Smells Like Teen Spirit at that early concert. After a brief chat with the bloke, she speaks to the band, I think trying to see if they could play that again and seems genuinely disappointed that they don’t know it well enough. Kelis isn’t your common or garden pop star.
Born and raised in Harlem, Kelis got her slightly strange moniker as a result of a combination of her father (Kenneth) and mother (Eveliss) names. In her youth, she sang in church choirs, and learned to play several instruments. At the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, she formed an R&B trio. She was introduced to Pharrell Williams and with his support, managed to land a record deal.
The singer-songwriter, who first rose to prominence on Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s ‘Got Your Money’ in 1999, released her first album Kaleidoscope, also in 1999 and breakthrough hit Caught Out There gave her a number 4 single in the UK. This song appears to be absent from her set lists nowadays. Further charting releases Good Stuff and Get Along With You meant a solid debut album was in the bag.
Second album Wanderland didn’t maintain the success upon its release, despite critical acclaim in the music press in 2001 and she left her label that year.
Third album Tasty put her career back on track in 2003 with the quirky Milkshake becoming a huge hit and second single Trick Me was also a big European success. Further singles Millionaire and In Public kept the success going.
Kelis’s fourth studio album, Kelis Was Here, was released in 2006 with single Lil Star reaching number 3 in the UK. She was then dropped by her label in 2007. After she had left the label, they put out a fourteen track “Greatest Hits” in 2008.
2010 album Flesh Tone saw another top five hit in the UK with Acapella. 3 further singles were released from the album, with 4th of July (Fireworks) being the most successful.
Latest release Food came out earlier this year. And the title may pay a nod to her training to become a cordon bleu saucier.
She has won Brit Awards, Q Awards, and NME Awards, and was nominated for two Grammy Awards and has released six regular studio albums so far. Outside her native United States, she had 10 top ten singles in the United Kingdom alone.
She has collaborated with the likes of The Neptunes, Andre 3000, Enrique Iglesias, Nas, Bjork, Cee-Loo Green, N.E.R.D., Basement Jaxx and has even written for Cheryl Cole. (That’s a song, not her autobiography).
Given her history, it’s a bit of a surprise to find the venue far from full when we arrive. The tickets suggest “Plus Support”, but it’s that con where anyone turning up early is subjected to a “DJ” playing records. This is not a support act! In a first for my visits to the ABC, there is a curtain up pre-gig, which obscures the entirety of the stage. Is there some elaborate set behind the stage awaiting us?
As it turns out, no there isn’t. The curtains open just after 9 and Kelis and band take to the stage. (The venue had said she would be on stage at 8.30). One backing singer and two on brass. Both halved from her appearance at Glastonbury at the weekend just passed.
Kelis has her hair tied up in enormous bunches at the back of her head and has a very tight kimono style dress on, with split up the thigh. She is certainly looking in good shape and immediately proves that her voice is in equally good shape, launching into the beginning of the Nina Simone classic Feeling Good.
The venue has filled up a fair bit since I arrived, but it’s certainly not full. A decent crowd in attendance though and it is a Monday night, in the midst of the World Cup.
She tells us that we are going to be hearing some old and some new. (If the dress was any tighter we might have been seeing something blue). She launches into the latest album opener Breakfast, one of the many highlights on that LP. The crowd are really getting into it now, and even more so when Millionaire is played next. The band might have been trimmed since the weekend, but they are sounding great and the backing singer has a beautiful voice in her own right, perfectly complimenting Kelis’s smoky lead vocals. Keyboards, bass and drums complete the line-up.
As is the format with gigs, the set is a combination of the most recent album and old favourites, as she promised at the start. Kelis, however, can never be accused of being formulaic. We hear seven songs off the new album, but these are far from disappointing. While some of the instruments used in recording the new album are not in attendance, the band manages to recreate much of the sound, and it is an eclectic mix. While it would be easy to dismiss the music as R&B, it is so much more than that, and often not that at all.
Much of the set is done in her trademark husky tome, but the high note she hits on Cobbler is quite breathtaking. She sits down mid set, but this doesn’t reduce the quality, or interaction with the crowd. A fuller arrangement makes Milkshake sound like an almost different song and the trumpet on Trick Me is another twist. Acapella is given a more disco feel. The new songs sound very sing-along, and with extended airplay and more people hearing them, it is easy to picture stadiums joining in with them.
All too soon, we are hearing Feeling Good again, which is reprised as the outro to the beginning’s intro. Kelis returns with band to play one more song, Friday Fish Fry, and then announces with minimum fuss that she will be signing things after the show “if we want”. This wasn’t very audible and I don’t think many heard it. I did though and was delighted to meet her post show.
I’d recommend going to see Kelis if you get the chance. And have a listen to the new album. She is now selling her own range of sauces and piloted a cookery show on television in the United States. Who knows how much longer you might get the chance to hear her make music.
Feeling Good (Intro)
Get Along With You/Good Stuff/Glow
4th of July (Fireworks)
Feeling Good (Outro)
Friday Fish Fry