Kali Uchis played at West Philly’s own World Café Live, with a very impressive opener Phony Ppl, both bringing the chilliest of vibes on Wednesday night to a sold out show. Kali Uchis, born Karly Loaiza in Pereira, Columbia, is a singer, songwriter and producer who has been garnering more and more attention in the past two years since releasing the EP Por Vida in February 2015, featuring production from big names such as Tyler, the Creator, Kaytranada, BadBadNotGood, etc. In the past year, she has been on the rise after releasing her single “Tyrant” for upcoming album and featuring on Tyler, the Creator’s “See You Again” and Daniel Caesar’s “Get You”.
Kali was backed by Brooklyn natives Phony Ppl, a band which you might have seen on your Spotify Discover Weekly, and they balanced Kali perfectly. Another on the rise band, their 2016 album Yesterday’s Tomorrow was ranked one of the “15 Great Albums You Didn’t Hear in 2016” by Rolling Stone. I was honestly blown away by how talented this group was; they mixed funk, soul, R&B, and rap fluidly with insane instrumentation and sweet personable enthusiasm that the whole crowd radiated to. Before the show I met Bari Bass, the bassist for Phony Ppl who rocked a red cape the entire night, and I asked him how long he had been playing the bass to which he answered “9 years.” I responded by asking how long he had been in Phony Ppl for and he responded with “9 years.” Bari and lead singer Elbee Thrie kept the energy fun and pulsing throughout the entire show, dishing out high fives to audience members and finding ways to include to get the crowd to passionately sing along to songs they had never heard before. Standouts included “Somehow.”, “HelGa”, a song dedicated to a character from “Hey Arnold!”, and “Why iii Love the Moon” which they ended with, incorporating drum and keyboard solos to boot.
After a short break, Kali strolled on with a truly awe inducing stage presence that I haven’t truly experienced in a while. Although known by many for her features, Kali made it clear to all that it was her show as she walked down a huge white staircase prop singing “Sycamore Tree”, the first track from Por Vida. Kali continued with “Loner” and “Tyrant”, her genuinely one in a kind voice taking over World Café Live. Phony Ppl provided the perfect live music to support Uchis’s voice, as the lead singer from Phony Ppl watched from the side of the stage clearly having a blast. Uchis continued with a surprising cover of Al Green’s seminal “Let’s Stay Together” which I did not recognize until my roommate and co-DJ Joe (whom I DJ Undecided in the College with, along with Shivani and Ramya) pointed it out to me. She rocked some other covers, including Alvaro Carillo’s “Sabor a mí” and Elvis Crespo’s “Suavamente” both of which fashionably embracing her Latin heritage.
Genius recently released a video which covered how female artists such as SZA, Princess Nokia, Rihanna, Cardi B, and Jhene Aikó have all scored hits by defying gender norms. It was refreshing to see Kali echo this trend in her own way through her relaxed confidence. Throughout the show she would throw towels of which she had wiped her sweat on to various members of the audience. “I sweat a lot,” she explained to the crowd nonchalantly. She was clearly doing her, and the crowd dug it. The final towel she threw out had the entire crowd at World Café Live screaming as if you were at a basketball game and you were trying to get a free t shirt. As the concert ended, I saw some girls race onstage and steal some extra towels that she hadn’t used which I thought was pretty funny and a testament to the type of stage presence she has.
Kali’s vocals were featured most prominently with standouts like “Know What I Want”, “See You Again” (which made the crowd go absolutely nuts), and a high energy take on “Ridin’ Around”. While her show felt short to many in comparison to Phony Ppl, the quality of her limited discography was clear. As Kali left the stage high fiving everyone in the crowd Wednesday night at World Café Live, it was clear to many that as Kali’s discography grows, she will be a force to be reckoned with in the wide wide world of music.