Kellylee Evans’ voice and dynamism charm Music Hall

BEIRUT: Canadian jazz and soul singer Kellylee Evans brought unusual vibes to Wadi Abu Jamil’s Music Hall Tuesday evening. Her one-night-only performance was welcomed with great enthusiasm by the Lebanese audience. Viewers were plunged into Evans’ musical realm, in which her own compositions and a number of carefully chosen cover songs mingled in harmony. Evans started her performance with “My Name Is,” a hybrid hip hop-jazz number familiar to fans of her latest album, the 2013 “I Remember When.” The groovy rhythms were punctuated by hard beats, a demonstration of this album’s unique contribution to the music scene, especially in contrast to her previous release, a tribute to Nina Simone.

Simone was nevertheless represented at the Beirut venue as the Canadian artist sang “Feeling Good.” Evans’ interpretation of the famous number was closer to the version created by British rock band Muse than diva Simone but it succeeded in electrifying the audience, who applauded and cheered the singer with great warmth.

Barefoot and dressed in a burgundy leather dress, Evans showed how happy she was to be in Beirut. “It is my first time in Beirut,” she announced at the beginning of the show. “You are all strangers to me. On the count of three, I want you to all shout your name!” The audience enthusiastically complied. Evans also tried out the only Arabic she knew, “shukran,” and seized the opportunity – thanks to a woman in the front row – to double her repertoire, learning the Arabic for “good evening.”

Evans made time to talk to and interact with the audience, which brought an intimate feeling to the evening. Although she could not have known how the Lebanese audience would react to her music, she seemed to feel quite at ease, and her relaxed demeanor made itself felt in her music as well as her behavior on stage. Evans danced all night long, imbuing the venue with an exotic atmosphere, as though the concert were taking place in a smoky jazz club in New Orleans.

The musicians accompanying the singer onstage were outstanding. Every now and then, the audience had the pleasure of witnessing perfectly executed piano, guitar, cello and drum solos, which demonstrated the equilibrium between musicians and singer.

American rapper Snoop Dogg – now known as Snoop Lion – took his place in the evening’s proceedings when Evans sang her personal version of his hit “Gin and Juice.” She also revisited Eminem’s well-known track from the movie “8 Mile.” Her sensual, upbeat voice brought the audience to their feet, as they danced to her rendition of “Lose Yourself.”

Evans’ calm onstage presence transformed the evening into a casual hangout between friends. Her natural look and graceful barefoot dance moves gave the concert a magical feel. One spectator even remarked that Evans’ performance was reminiscent of iconic French singer Serge Gainsbourg’s video clip “Couleur Café,” in which the singer praises the curves and femininity of the dancer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 20, 2014, on page 16.




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