After a three-year absence, Kelela's return to Melbourne graced the Royal Exhibition Building with her soulful prowess at the inaugural Now or Never Festival.
Opening the night were the captivating performances by Serpentwithfeet and local DJ MIRASIA. On a Sunday evening in August, this Melbourne concert became an immersive journey into the realms of R&B and an experiment in music production.
The Festival's musical lineup was a thoughtful, curated blend of complementary R&B styles. From the avant-garde sounds of serpentwithfeet to the artistry of Kelela and the dynamic mixes of MIRASIA, the audience was in for a genre-defying experience. Under the soaring arches of the venue, a diverse and eclectic crowd gathered, comprising dedicated Kelela enthusiasts, local artists, and fashion-forward youth. The ambience was further enhanced by a mesmerizing floor-to-ceiling LED screen backdrop for the deconstructed club music to come.
MIRASIA DJ sets transitioned through the awkward silence between performers. Her performance was amplified by an ensemble of ballroom dancers against a backdrop of vivid red, pink, and blue lights. At times, the music ventured into exhilarating yet slightly chaotic electronic mixes that echoed with crowd favourites. Followed by serpentwithfeet, who took the audience through intimate sound bites and emotionally charged adlib monologues. The performance felt like a personal conversation with the crowd, drawing them in with his raw energy. Leaving everyone in anticipation of what was to come.
When it was time for Kelela to perform, lights, claps, and puffs of smoke, a journey through her illustrious discography unfolded. She seamlessly moved through remixes, edits, and tracks from her earlier works like 'Cut 4 Me' to her latest album, 'Raven.' Kelela's sparkling look captured angelic stage moments. The intimate lighting brought the audience closer to her and, coupled with the reverberating bass filling the hall, added a magical touch to the atmosphere. Other moments in the show ranged from slow renditions to electrifying dance parties to let the audience find their own connections.
With her latest album, 'Raven,' exploring vulnerability, ambient techno, and release. She seamlessly navigated between minimalist club beats and celestial R&B. After a period of relative silence on social media, Kelela expressed gratitude to her dedicated fans for their unwavering support, dubbing it an "act of self-care." As a respite from the usual club and techno mixes that dominate Melbourne's nightlife scene. This authenticity was felt throughout her performance, reflecting the depth and versatility of Kelela's artistry. As the night unfolded, the audience got lost in Kelela's seductive music alongside an innovative soundscape for soul-releasing dance.
Find out more about Now Or Never here.