Courtesy of Jennifer Baik
Singer-song writer and rising pop sensation Tori Kelly created an intimate concert experience as she serenaded fans with her versatile vocal range at Rams Head Live! Thursday night.
Representing another example of pop music’s growing reliance on social media to discover untapped talent (think Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepson), Kelly got her start uploading original songs and acoustic covers to her YouTube channel, which currently has over one million subscribers. But instead of evolving into another polished pop-product on her rise to fame, Kelly shows potential to bring a raw, emotional voice to the genre.
After signing with Capitol records two years ago, 2015 has served as the singer’s breakout year: she released her debut album Unbreakable Smile at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, co-wrote a song with Ed Sheeran (“I was Made for Loving You”) and performed at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Strapping on her guitar and taking the stage at Rams Head Live!, Kelly opened with “Where I Belong,” the brief, introductory track on Unbreakable Smile. The song is a vulnerable, self-reflective melody that begins with uncertainty, but ends on a note of confidence.
The singer then continued to perform “Confetti,” a song from her 2012 EP, Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly. This song set the tone for the rest of Kelly’s performance as its lyrics promoted themes that remain consistent in her other songs like “Funny” and “Unbreakable Smile”: confidence and her personal goal to stay grounded in the face of increasing fame.
Kelly also immediately showed off her powerhouse vocal talent in this performance, shifting from soulful, hip-hop-styled verses to a smooth yet booming chorus. Her fluid vocal riffs also demonstrated a mastering of controlled improvisation.
Despite a few onstage fumbles in the opening numbers, including admitting that she almost fell twice, Kelly quickly connected with the crowd’s enthusiastic energy.
Composed of active members of the YouTube generation, the audience demonstrated their dedication to following Kelly’s career as they sang along to a majority of her songs. A few fans in attendance also brought home made signs to the show. Although, Kelly herself mentioned her difficult time believing a sign that proclaimed, “I love you more than pizza.”
For the show’s entire middle segment, Kelly treated the venue like an intimate club setting and allowed her band to leave her side as she sang without any effects or gimmicks. Adding to this close environment, Kelly addressed her fans directly in between songs.
“If you’re feeling discouraged or uninspired right now, I want to let you to know that God does have a plan for your life, and I hope that this next song inspires you,” Kelly said as she then crooned the sorrowful, but still self-assured “City Dove.”
She also thanked her internet fans for their continued support and rewarded them by performing three of her most popular YouTube covers, including Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie” and Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.”
Still holding the most views out of all her videos—at a staggering 26 million—Kellly’s cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinking Bout You” was eagerly anticipated by the audience. Kelly waited a good thirty seconds for audience cheers to die down before she began this melancholy, yet rhythmic cover.
After returning to the stage for an encore, Kelly performed her final song and current radio smash “Should’ve Been Us” and concluded her concert with the audience singing and dancing along to an energetic anthem.
Opening the show for Kelly was another talented vocalist, Johnny Stimson. A Texas native, Stimson proved his diverse vocals range in his pop-funk songs like "So. Good," a song that proved to live up to its title. Despite a short set, Stimson proved to be a solid opener, pumping up the audience's excitement as he moved across the stage with contagious energy.