LIVE: Kelly Lee Owens @ EartH Hackney, London
Kelly Lee Owens’ excitement and appreciation for just being able to perform live again was certainly mirrored by the EartH Hackney crowd, which queued in the bitter winter rain along Stoke Newington Road to cram into her show that sold out six months prior.
The second of two London shows and the final stop on her UK tour, tonight and the previous night at Electric Brixton marked the first time KLO would take the stage in her home city since before the pandemic. Her palpable sense of giddy energy was understandable - the techno-pop producer’s career has flourished within the past 18 months with the release of sophomore album Inner Song, which saw her win praise from most corners of the media and collaborate with former Velvet Underground member John Cale.
There was no sign of her fellow Welshman (or their track ‘Corner Of My Sky’) tonight, but the mystic presence of her home country was felt.
Adorning a custom-made dress that honoured her heritage, KLO boldly kicked off with Radiohead cover ‘Arpeggi’, then ‘On’ following as it does on Inner Song. A former NHS nurse that got into music later than most, her hushed vocal feels true to her core as a gentle, caring individual which permeates the therapeutic mantra of ‘Keep Walking’.
That is until she drops glitchy, bassy beats that indicate the influence of her close friend and steward Daniel Avery: bounding between her two keyboards, flicking her hair wildly, and stamping her boots during ‘Melt!’, ‘Night’, and ‘Lucid’ when it peaks, it’s evident that Kelly is no run-of-the-mill dance music performer. Flitting between a mythic, reverb-laden vocal and primal screams, her aura commanded complete focus and attention, unlike your typical DJ.
With disjointed visuals that complete the rave mise-en-scene, it felt somewhat discombobulating to experience her in full flow on a Thursday evening when the hedonistic haze of an early morning festival slot (such as her impeccable Green Man Festival set this summer) would be more fitting.
Kelly engaged her Hackney crowd throughout, dropping her opus ‘Jeanette’ as the hour-long set came to a prompt conclusion when a pixelated image of her nan - who the song is named after - materialised. Her music brims with emotion and fondness for the misty folklore of her home country, as do her performances: signing off from her tour with this show, she bookended the set by graciously and honestly thanking everyone. She was clearly grateful to be here, and with the looming uncertainty, so were we.