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Review | Kelis at London’s Jazz Cafe

By Will Stroude

Kelis has sold millions of records, toured the world many times over and worked with some of the most prominent names in the music industry and now she’s achieved another dream by opening the Kelis x Le Bun pop-up restaurant in the heart of London.

Proving she has one hell of a work ethic, Kelis will be overseeing the restaurant by day and then performing a select few nights at London’s Jazz Cafe as well as going out onto the UK’s festival circuit where she’ll be taking her band…. and her food truck. Other popstars should take note; feed your fans AND give a solid performance and they will be forever loyal.

For Kelis – who describes London as being ‘a second home’ – this felt more like a homecoming celebration than your typical gig. With Camden’s intimate Jazz Cafe being the perfect venue for a setlist that spanned the 17 years since Kelis burst onto the scene with her debut.

Fans were treated to highlights from 2010’s Flesh Tone album alongside her most recent release, Food which offered up a more soulful, mature sound that complimented those distinctive husky vocals that Kelis is known for.

Forever Be, Acapella, Jerk Ribs & Brave showed a softer, more defiant & reflective side to Kelis yet didn’t feel out of place with show opener Millionaire and other classic hits such as – my personal favourite – Trick Me and Good Stuff.

Another highlight was Bounce; the Calvin Harris collaboration  which changed the vibe yet again at a gig that ranged from soul to hip-hop, electro and dance. Backed by both a DJ & full band, Kelis managed to switch up styles effortlessly.

Despite a sold-out crowd full of die-hard fans who were chanting the lyrics to every song, it was almost inevitable that Milkshake would be one of the best received songs of the night. Kelis managed to reinvent what has surely become her trademark song into a funky slice of soul, giving a fresh burst of energy to one of the catchiest songs of the century.

Other artists who’ve been in the industry for almost two decades can develop a habit of shunning their bigger hits in favour of new material but the enthusiasm Kelis showed for the classics was as endearing as her interactions with the audience – ranging from witty remarks on the industry, revealing touching stories behind songs or just recognising some audience members who had dined at her pop-up London restaurant – we’ve been there, it’s awesome – Kelis had control throughout.

A performance full of inimitable vocals, elegant charm & one hell of a back catalogue. Let’s hope Kelis doesn’t keep us waiting too long for her seventh studio album.

Kelis will be performing at London’s Jazz Cafe on Saturday 16th and Monday 18th July.

Words: Jon Hornbuckle