KELE, 20 Mar – Oxford Art Factory

The first vision of Kele on stage was the perfect precursor to the show’s theme of the artist as a soul-saving preacher man, habitually throwing his hands up and down as pseudo crowd cleansing. A gold cross dangled from his neck as he contorted his tongue and face muscles to command the vocal range that is what makes his craft so unique. When he pulled his chords back slowly, it was reggae; when the beat picked up he was a British rapper; when he broke it down he sampled his voice as if it were that recognisable sample of “Ha ha” from Gorillaz’s Feel Good Inc. At times it looked like he was about to vomit on the mic, an interesting notion with respect to the lovesick lyrics, the mic taking the form of his beloved.

His third track, Like We Used To, reverberated through the ridiculously laid out venue that is Oxford Art Facotry. It was reminiscent of the rave scene from Trainspotting: dark, industrial yet nostalgic… like all of Kele’s lyrics.

The transitions between tracks were seamless yet illusive as many of the beats and frequencies still don’t seem to make sense when all put together. His ability to weave in and out of genres is as physical as it is musical, his rhythm bafflingly fluid. Then it was back to ‘church’ for Doubt, where he broke down some improv beats that gave the track a trip-hop feel.

Kele remained true to his promise of a ‘solo’ performance by only playing one Bloc Party track, One More Chance. This deserves noting because all too often artist’s solo projects merely play their band’s back catalogue.

Last track, Rise, was one last installment of faith. Motivational captions flickered on the screen jamming self-worth down your throat, a little sickening even for Kele who dry-retched over his beloved mic once more while irritating ‘90s dance music floated the message out.

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