“Expect a mesmerising evening”, said the flyer for Kemi Sulola’s debut show. Having seen the talented singer once before, I had my assumptions that she’d be good but with breathtaking performances, unanticipated surprises and a sold out show at the Albany theatre, who knew the flyer could be so accurate?
However, before I go on to speak about the magnificent main act, allow me to briefly discuss her brilliant support. First to warm up the audience was a singer and songwriter by the name of Tony Blaize. He started his set with a strikingly relevant piece about Nigeria, singing about how “we are the victims of folded arms”. He then switched from serious to sweet as he sang a love song by the name ‘Roseanne’ channeling a sound that was very Robin Thicke-esque (yes, that is now a word).
Next to support was spoken word artist, Dylema. Her poem, ‘What if a black girl knew’ was inspiring and thought-provoking. Her passion was evident and it was clear that the audience was feeling her words as there were finger-clicks to be heard from every row.
So, after the audience had been warmed up and the hilarious host Emmanuel Mensah had kept the atmosphere light-heated and fun, it was time for the main act to grace the stage. Kemi Sulola surprised the audience as her band, back-up singers and herself alike entered in all white. The stage literally lit up as giant letters spelling ‘KEMI’ were part of the set. Singing her ‘Fallen introduction’ started the show on an upbeat tone and had everyone in the theatre vibing. From songs like ‘Limbo’ to ‘Inside’, Kemi’s powerful R&B sound with a hint of neo-soul captured everyone’s attention and applause throughout. There were moments where I had to step back and remind myself that this EP was written and produced by Miss Sulola herself. An extraordinary thought when the tunes sounded like the sort of thing you’d hear in the charts.
Though I was loving the entire evening, allow me to share some moments in the show that seriously stood out. Firstly, the ‘You Don’t Know’ performance which was accompanied by a group of dancers dressed in red – an unexpected but very welcomed twist on the night. Another stand-out part was the moment that Kemi took part in a duet to perform ‘Your Lady’. There were some amazing harmonies which blew the audience away and the song reminded me of a Lauryn Hill and D’angelo-type performance. She also entertained as she dedicated a section to rewinding old school R&B classics – an opportunity for the audience to get involved and sing along with the talented artist. Though these throwbacks were by R&B legends, Kemi Sulola’s voice sounded like it could’ve easily belonged on many of the tracks.
The final thing that stood out to me was Kemi Sulola’s stage presence. As a debut performance, you’d expect nerves, mistakes or even a hint of unprofessionalism, right? Wrong. The show included nothing but confidence, charisma and a voice that made everyone’s jaw drop. With the addition of the odd tear, you could see that she was genuinely thankful to everyone in the audience.
So, to sum up, that little flyer couldn’t have put it any better. The performances, the production and the incredible talent all made for what was a mesmerising debut show. As the evening went on and the music flowed, it felt as though I was watching someone that had done this for years.
Keep your eye out for Kemi Sulola, she’s one to watch.