Despite it being a Sunday night, an hour-long queue formed outside the O2 Institute in Birmingham ahead of Mahalia’s LOVE AND COMPROMISE tour; this is testament to her ever-growing appeal and long overdue success. A diverse fan base (from mums with daughters, to men of all ages) flooded Room 2 of the Institute, patiently awaiting Mahalia’s arrival, whilst singing along to a selection of Old School R&B classics.
At 9pm, following a great reaction to No Scrubs, the star herself burst onto the stage with sass and self-confidence in abundance. She was joined by a live band and rocked a radiant smile and a dark bodysuit (from ASOS, she proudly boasts). If her album is like a diary entry, then Mahalia’s concert is like an invitation into her living room, as she is accompanied on stage by dimly lit lampshades and flowery décor.
Almost giving her audience a pre-warning, Mahalia tells us that she likes to talk a lot before proceeding to guide us through her set. This made for a very intimate performance and it felt like we got to know the real Mahalia. Many tracks from LOVE AND COMPROMISE are centred around ‘boy troubles’ but Mahalia’s impressive vocals and songwriting ability transformed this perhaps trivial subject into a relatable, humorous at times, display of true talent. She introduces What Am I? by saying, “you can tell me if you like me or f**k off,” and Karma with, “I know she’s good, but I’m better”. She even joked that her Dad was in the crowd listening; you could feel her charm from the onset.
Flash back to last year, when Mahalia was warming up for Anne Marie at the O2 Academy, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her. I remember thinking how empowering she was as she told me: “I write songs to inspire strength in women, and also guys”. A year on and, not only has she now secured hew own headline show, but her message remains: “Put your hands up if you love your body,” she instructs the crowd as the intro to her track, Regular People. Mahalia certainly sets the precedent, celebrating her body in her outfit of choice. At this moment, Hamzaa joins her on stage for a duet, marking her second appearance as she was also Mahalia’s support act.
Whilst 21-year-old Mahalia exudes friendly ‘girl-next-door’ vibes, there is an awareness that she is not just a ‘regular person’. Her gift as a natural, born entertainer is made immediately obvious. This is further elevated through moments when she casually whips out a guitar for a solo or dances her way across the stage. Musically, one highlight of the show was her delivery of Sober (a song she wrote at 18) which was performed with a reworked, upbeat instrumental.
The gig came to a close with a singalong to I Wish I Missed My Ex, however, Mahalia was not done yet. She ran back for an encore of a track that wasn’t her own, receiving a standing ovation from the balcony. “I want to be on stage and I want to tell stories and talk to people,” she told me last year. She did just this and, in turn, achieved her vision ensuring Mahalia as a force to be reckoned with.
Written by Char Stape.