I Love Kelis So Much Right Now

It was a pleasure to see R&B star Kelis live in Herzliya last week, even if she did omit one of her most famous songs from the set list.

Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev
Kelis in concert, Zappa Club, Herzliya.
Kelis in concert, Zappa Club, Herzliya.Credit: Muperphoto
Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev

Kelis is into food now. Working on a cookbook. Dreaming about recipes rather than songs, as she told the audience at her performance in Herzliya last week. Her most recent music tour was last summer, when she was also supposed to perform in Israel. Operation Protective Edge disrupted her plans, but she eventually came here half a year later, with her mind not entirely focused on music. She apologizes for the fact she’s not in good form, and begs our forgiveness if she occasionally glances at the lyric sheet in front of her.

We forgive you, Kelis. In fact, you didn’t even need to apologize. You cooked up an excellent performance at the Zappa Club. We’ll be happy if you give the recipe to other singers, who, although they’re in better shape than you, are unable to stage such a charming, exciting and joyful performance.

When she first opened her mouth, her voice sounded too hoarse. But she calibrated it quickly, and from that moment it was a pleasure to listen to her. And to see her. A black singer who sings the way she should, and conquers the nightclub without an ounce of effort – who needs more than that? With a mane of curls dyed gray and a short, clingy dress, Kelis looked like a half-soul-veteran/half-pop-singer, kicking back. Somewhere between Macy Gray and Nicki Minaj.

Revered House diva

Her musical persona also included that entire scale. Sometimes she sounds like a soul singer, sometimes like a soloist for a girls’ band, sometimes like a hit parade singer, and sometimes – and these were the most successful moments – like a revered House diva.

Kelis’ biggest hits were carefully manufactured by the best producers – mainly members of The Neptunes production team who worked with her at the beginning of the 2000s. It was clear that in a live performance, 10 or so years on, the songs would sound completely different. And that’s what happened. Recorded versions from Neptune; performance versions from Earth.

There was no unique or up-to-date ring to the songs the way they were performed onstage, but that doesn’t mean their ring wasn’t good and effective. And although Kelis’ small band didn’t exactly shine, she did everything necessary so that the chef’s meal would be satisfying and enjoyable. Hors d’oeuvres, main course and, of course, a "Milkshake" at the end.

There was no encore. Maybe someone told Kelis that the new Israeli pop stars don’t do encores, and she wanted to blend in. In light of the beauty of the entire performance, that wasn’t a problem. She didn't perform "Caught Out There" (with its famous “I hate you so much right now” line), either. Strange, but not necessarily bad.

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