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Concert Review:Tori Kelly gives Columbus an intimate night of songs and stories

Tori Kelly performs at Express Live in Columbus on Mar. 29. Credit: David Aaron | For The Lantern

Not many artists can sing for 2 hours straight in an intimate acoustic set and not miss a note – but not many artists are Tori Kelly.

On Friday night at Express Live, the California-based singer/songwriter played an intimate set for the latest stop on her tour, aptly titled, “The Acoustic Sessions.”

With no backing band, elaborate visuals or big production value, Kelly’s stage set-up consisted of nothing but a comfy black couch, a rug and a few chairs. The only instruments used throughout the night were acoustic and electric guitars, and throughout the performance she was only joined on stage by Los Angeles-based guitarist Mateus Asato and the crowd played the role of background vocalist.

I honestly was a little hesitant going into this show. Not because I was worried about Kelly’s vocals being bad – she’s amazing vocally – but I was worried about an intimate performance like that holding the attention of a room of 1,000+ people.

But my doubts were put to rest by the second song.

After kicking her set off with “Language” and “Nobody Love,” Kelly welcomed the crowd and explained her reasoning behind an exclusively acoustic tour.

“I just wanted to do something completely different for this tour…I just want this to feel like you’re in my living room with me,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s set also consisted of numerous unreleased songs she wanted to play for fans for the first time to get real and genuine reactions before she releases them on her forthcoming album. In between songs, she told a lot of stories about how these songs came about and made sure to shout out every influence and songwriter that helped put her ideas to paper.

Some of these unreleased songs included, “Pretty Fades,” “Your Words,” “Actress,” “Coffee” and “Sorry Would Go a Long Way,” the latter two being some of my favorites.

Kelly won her first two Grammy awards in February for “Best Gospel Album” and “Best Gospel Performance/Song,” and made sure to weave in a few songs from the album including, “Never Alone” and “Psalms 42.”

She explained that creating that album helped get her through tough times in her life over the past year and that the messages resonate with her a lot.

However, it wouldn’t be a Tori Kelly concert without acoustic song covers, arguably the one thing that took her from making songs on her Youtube channel, to becoming an award-winning singer.

Kelly breezed through popular songs such as, Christina Aguilera’s “Keep on Singin’ My Song,” Paramore’s “The Only Exception” and Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You.”

Aside from the covers, Kelly also performed a lot of her popular songs including, “Unbreakable Smile,” “I Was Made for Loving You,” “Should’ve Been Us,” “Hollow” and “Funny,” the most requested song of the evening.

But the personal highlight for me was Kelly’s 12-song medley of her earliest songs from her first few EPs. Some of these songs included, “Confetti,” “Dear No One,” “Paper Hearts,” “Celestial,” “Rocket,” “Stained” and many more.

The way she was able to interpolate that many songs into a few guitar chords was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen at a live show.

Overall, this concert showed me that Kelly is a true master of her craft and can captivate thousands of people with just her voice and a guitar.

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