On the eve of announcing her much-anticipated debut album SWEETSEXYSAVAGE, Kehlani’s ‘Tsunami Christmas’ event (a nod to her tirelessly supportive fan-base) was a celebration of an artist about to enter a new chapter with a renewed sense of mission.
You Should Be Here, Kehlani’s debut commercial mixtape dropped in April 2015 and since then the demand for her debut album proper has been insatiable. Armed with a clutch of chart-climbing new singles, this show signalled that Kehlani’s next phase will be her biggest yet.
The real takeaway from this show was how good a place Kehlani seems to be in. In light of events in her personal life across the past 12 months, she seemed as happy as the audience to be there and be playing such an intimate show to her UK fans. One highlight was during The Way where Kehlani handed fan in the front row the microphone to perform the whole of Chance the Rapper’s sensual guest verse. The error-free from the recital from the fan had Kehlani in a spin of euphoria.
An ensemble cast of guests – Little Simz, WSTRN and Angel – came to join the party but the host overshadowed at every turn. That said, it didn’t feel like the normal label-arranged guest appearances. Kehlani guests on the remix of WSTRN’s irresistible hit In2 and she recently linked up with Simz on Table. The Tsunami team clearly have an embassy out here and the artists Kehlani’s connected with musically have made an impact on her. She’s visibly elated to share the stage with them.
New cuts like Distraction are met with the same rapturous response as old favourites like the jittery, infectiously upbeat Wanted. Despite sound issues and a vocal performance which is – at times – slightly lacklustre, Kehlani’s unwavering ability to deliver a pop experience with all the informal joys of an under-the-radar artist is perhaps her greatest skill.
We caught Kehlani at the end of last year ahead of our February cover story. Tonight she seems more confident, more mature and firmly focused on the year that lies ahead of her. Fitting of any worthwhile Christmas party, the show ended with a confetti canon and the kind of cosy, celebratory atmosphere of intimacy and closeness which Kehlani has fostered with her fans.