It would be all too easy to go with the usual puns about Kelis and her milkshake that brings all the boys to the yard. Especially when discussing her live performance in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday July 23rd presented by Niche Productions, considering she really did bring all the boys (and girls) to the yard (which is known in this case as The HiFi). But instead I’ll focus on the fact that if you came simply for her milkshake you got more than you bargained for with Kelis delivering a smorgasbord of treats for music lovers to devour.
Opening with Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” Kelis and her band sounded warm and inviting. The classic served to prepare the audience for the tour through Kelis’ music catalog that would take place, with a strong focus on her atest release, FOOD. Fittingly launching into “Breakfast” Kelis sparkled – literally – in a stunning shimmery aqua blue dress that seemed to echo her light-hearted energy on stage. Her between song banter was personal and engaging, which only endeared Kelis to the crowd, as did the ease of the whole affair, with Kelis calling songs throughout the set to her band and discussing which track they’d run next.
But while a main course serving of her newer work may have been on order, her classics had the spotlight on them, too, with “Billionaire” and “Trick Me” from 2004’s Tasty making an appearance along with Kaleidoscope’s “Get Along With You” and “Good Stuff.” Her detour into dance music seemed to receive the strongest reaction from the crowd though, with “Acapella” seeing the entire audience with their arms raised in the air joyfully.
Unsurprisingly, a standout from the show was “Milkshake” — but not for the obvious reasons. Kelis and her band flipped it around and put a fast-paced calypso spin on the hit, encouraging the audience to channel their inner Caribbean native by injecting a tropical island party feeling into a bitterly cold winter’s night in Sydney.
While the whole show had a strong theme of fearless fun about it, Kelis herself balanced carefree fun with perfection. With her vocals thick, husky and with that unmistakeable timbre, Kelis sounded faultless even when shaking her milkshake all over the stage. Add to that the richness of her band, in particular the horn section, and the show felt both intimate and spectacularly huge at the same time. That’s not an easy feat especially in a city where audiences can be overwhelmingly cynical and tough to win over. But win over Sydney, Kelis did, giving them a taste of the good stuff that will have them yearning for a long time to come for more of what Kelis is cooking up.