Mahalia // Live Review & Photoset

18th November | O2 Academy

Photos: Naomi Williams

The leading lines of ‘Hide Out’ reminded us of a legend and encouraged a loud cheer. In the sample, Eartha Kitt answered a journalist who asked her a question about compromising for a man. “Compromise? Compromising for what? Compromising for what reason? A man comes into my life and I have to compromise?” she sneered. This is the central theme on Mahalia‘s debut album, Love and Compromise.

The intricately-decorated stage set an idyllic scene, transporting the O2 Academy into The Garden of Eden. Pink rose-adorned chandeliers hung from the lighting rig. If you drew your eyes down, you noticed purple gladioli in a neat curly bouquet here, a few potted wisteria plants by the instruments there – subtle visual aids lifted directly from her debut album cover.

Yet through the fog of foliage, Mahalia emerged victorious. Matching the forest feel onstage, she sported a neon green blazer as she started ‘Do Not Disturb’. The mature cousin to ‘Sober’ focused on blocking out a former lover with the Do Not Disturb feature on a phone, only for herself.

She shattered the untouchable glamour diva image early on, declaring that water makes her burp a lot. Quickly backtracking she reminded everyone, “I talk a lot. Tell your friends I’m an R&B sexy princess and that’s all that matters.” Behind every song, there is a huge slice of gossip which she happily divulged to the crowd with relish every time.

‘Good Company’ is the #MeToo anthem that all guys and girls need to hear to understand a thing or two about Mahalia, and women for that matter. Talking about the inspiration, she noted, “I used to find if I invited someone into my home, there was always an expectation to take it further. From my perspective, when you step into my territory, from this moment on, everything is on my terms.”

It stood as a pivotal point of the night, a stark warning for all men to shake the aged presumption women want something more straightaway. She revealed, “Truthfully, I don’t have the time or energy to understand what I am to you. Either tell me what’s going on here or fuck off.” This bold statement preceded ‘What Am I?’ which sounds from the title like it was fuelled by an existential crisis. Instead it was a pristinely-produced track with jazzy textures, filled by anxious thoughts centred on defining a relationship.

She performed a personal diary, with each entry encapsulating all her values, experiences and emotions. ‘Karma’ saw her going after a crush with a girlfriend, but she thinks she is better. ‘He’s Mine’ is all about dealing with the aftermath, where the better girl won. Stories like this captivated the 1600 people who turned out to see her.

In an hour, she slammed down those who threatened to mistreat her, owned up to her mistakes and discussed her drama, as opposed to shying away from it. Her attempts to shorten stories had fans shouting for the long versions. Her approach to fame is refreshingly wholesome and original. With all we learnt at the concert, Mahalia is both every girl’s best friend and man’s greatest teacher.

See Mahalia perform ‘Consistency’ live here: