R&B star Kehlani outlasts the heat in Charlotte with an impressive set that pleased both day ones and new fans

By Tyler Bunzey

August 7, 2022

Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre was filled with a humid, still heat that rested over the crowds as they settled into their seats to see Oakland R&B singer Kehlani on Friday night. Kehlani even paused her set early in the first few songs to set up a heat exhaustion protocol with the fans so that she could stop the show if anyone needed medical assistance. All over the venue you could feel the lethargy of the muggy North Carolina evening air settle in.

Kehlani performing in Charlotte for her Blue Water Road tour. Photo: Blue Amber

The openers— R&B up-and-comer Destin Conrad and punk rap staple Rico Nasty— received a bit of a tepid response from the crowd. Although the audience skewed towards Gen Z in age, it seemed many were way too sluggish to rock due to the heat. After a short set by Conrad, Rico Nasty took the stage and scraped through the setlist with her signature raspy voice and punk-inspired performance style. Some of the younger audience members found enough verve to stand through the set and chant lyrics to hits like “Smack a Bitch,” but the environment worked against the reception to no fault of Rico Nasty. 

Noodles, Kehlani’s DJ, provided a much-needed burst of energy as the sun was setting after Rico’s set. Kehlani’s day one collaborator ramped the crowd up with a nostalgic set of hip-hop and R&B classics like T-Pain’s “I’m in Love with a Stripper,” Yung Joc’s “It’s Goin’ Down,” and even Kirk Franklin’s “Revolution.” This romp through the aughts’ most popular hits jarred the dazed crowd into action, with dance circles breaking out among friends and strangers.

Photo: Blue Amber

If Kehlani felt the heat when she took the stage, she didn’t show it. Joined by a cadre of four dancers, the singer opened her set with passionate, high-energy renditions of songs from her new album like “little story” and “any given sunday.” After a brief showcase of Blue Water Road, Kehlani turned toward her signature blend of sensuousness and sacred self-love in songs like “Open (Passionate)” and “Can I.” Throughout the first half of her set, Kehlani balanced playfulness with more serious self-reflective ballads of the broken hearted. She would coquettishly play with her background dancers at times, once even whipping the crowd into a titillated frenzy when she simulated oral sex with different dancers while crooning through a particularly lurid verse. But she would also take the stage alone, baring her heart in a performance of open vulnerability. 

Photo: Blue Amber 

Her fans loved this play between desire and tender love. The 27-year-old singer seemed to anticipate this, as the second half of her setlist brought fans back to her second mixtape where many listeners first encountered the singer’s tender but fiery desire. She opened this half of her set with “Honey,” the classic queer femme love ballad, before running through hits from her 2015 mixtape You Should Be Here and her 2017 studio album, SweetSexySavage. Kehlani ended the show by moving chronologically forward in her catalog with hits like “Nunya” from her 2019 album, While We Wait, and “Toxic” from 2020’s It Was Good Until it Wasn’t, before returning to the present with “melt,” “everything,” and “altar” from Blue Water Road. She adeptly toured fans through her catalog, depending equally on the heart-tugging power of nostalgia as the thrill of novelty. 

Photo: Blue Amber 

This play between nostalgia and novelty, self-love and infatuation, desire and loss, showcased the singer’s skill not only as a songwriter but as a performer. Kehlani didn’t just perform a collection of songs, she curated a live experience that could speak to both day ones and new fans. This ability gestures both towards her emerging status as an R&B stalwart and her continual push to create music with fresh perspectives on love and relationships. 

Setlist:

“Little Story”
“Shooter”
“More Than I Should”
“Tangerine”
“Open/Passionate” feat. Destin Conrad
“Love Language”
“Piece of Mind”

“Can I”
“Water”
“Hate The Club”
“Wish I Never”
“Up at Night”
“Serial Lover”

“Honey”
“You Should Be Here”
“The Way/Distractions”
“In My Feelings”
“Nunya”
“Good Thing”

“Grieving”
“Change Your Life”
“Toxic”
“Nights Like This”
“Any Given Sunday”
“Melt”
“Everything”
“Altar”

Encore

“Crazy”




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