Tori Kelly is without a doubt, one of the freshest faces and formidable talents in pop music today. After her first major label release Unbreakable Smile debuted at the top of the Billboard 200, bolstered by her smash single “Should’ve Been Us” and “Nobody Love,” this former American Idol contestant turned YouTube sensation turned Grammy nominee and Capitol records signee is currently on her Unbreakable Tour, hitting major markets in the US and Canada.
The Revention Music Center in Downtown Houston was the perfect place for the California native to bring her tour, having just the right setting: large enough to house the massive crowd that turned out, yet intimate enough that the audience were able to feel every lyric.
A night of amazing music kicked off promptly with opening act, Thirdstory, also gaining their audience from YouTube. While the group performed a short set packed with their own original music, they did an amazing cover of Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One” in their signature three part harmony.
Kelly opened her concert the same way that she opened her album, with the personal intro “Where I Belong,” a song that speaks to Kelly’s self confidence and relevance in today’s music scene. The “girl with the guitar” took off quickly into tracks from her debut album, like the boisterous and horny heavy “Expensive,” and the wrenching “Falling Slow.”
The crowd got a chance to duet with the pop singer, taking on the role of Ed Sheeran on “I Was Made For Loving You,” while during “Funny,” the entire room hung onto her every word with held breath. Throwing it back, Kelly also mixed in some songs from her EPs Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly and Foreword, including “Dear No One,” “Paper Hearts,” and fan favorite “Confetti.”
Not to let down her longstanding diehard fans, the songstress went right into her most famous covers, performing Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie,” Michael Jackson’s “PYT,” and Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ Bout You.” Before ending her set with “Dear No One,” Tori mixed “All In My Head” with “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child, which went over very well with the Houston crowd.
To the pleasure of the audience, she returned to the stage for an encore, performing current single “Hollow,” bringing the show to a spiritual place, before showing off her talent on the drum. A battle between her own drummer ensued, with Kelly playing famous riffs (like Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison”), her wild blonde hair bouncing along to the beats.
It truly is a treat to see Tori Kelly perform live, as her music by itself is pitch perfect, but to her credit, Kelly is able to match (even surpass) her own vocal ability. Not only is she a vocal prodigy with a wide range and colorful tone, she showed her musicality as she switched from acoustic guitar to electric guitar to the drums. Moreover, Tori Kelly was amazing to put down the instruments and was able to sing right to the crowd, at one point getting within distance of her audience.
What seems to be part of the appeal of Ms. Kelly is not only her musical talent, but her relatability, evident when she stopped her own show to take a Snapchat of the entire audience. A musician on the cutting edge, while also able to resonate in the hearts of many, Tori Kelly is a force to be reckoned with and a formidable live performer.
Tori Kelly Setlist
Where I Belong
Art of Letting Go
Covers (“Suit & Tie,” “PYT,” “Thinkin’ Bout You” )
I Was Made for Loving You
All In My Head
Say My Name
Dear No one
Should’ve Been Us