With her signature dark lip liner, hoop earrings and 70s era spunk, Kali Uchis has a strong visual presence on stage. But what she lacks is not another accessory, it’s something far more important: an ability to perform.
During the first weekend of Coachella, April 14-15, Uchis sang and danced her way through a 45-minute set, alongside featured artists Tyler, The Creator and BIA. However, despite technical difficulties and an absent guitarist, there is nothing that could have justified Uchis’ amateur sound.
Her usual seamless ability to switch between high and low pitches was nowhere to be found. Despite her flashy, skin-baring gold ensemble and constant movement, her performance fell flat. The entire show was unlike the multi-dimensional presentations of her other projects including “Isolation,” a mesmerizing, hypnotic debut album that proved Uchis as an artist. Her voice missed her usual vocal dexterity, and at times, sounded more like static droning.
To her credit, Uchis doesn’t have a lot of experience as a performer. Most the songs in her set came from her new album, released April 6, making this past weekend the first time that she’s performed her new songs live. Her singing career began in 2012 with the release of her mixtape and she’s only ever toured twice, one of which she headlined.
But her new songs weren’t the only tracks that needed work. Even older songs like “Ridin’ Round,” which was released in her mixtape and then revamped in 2015, were remarkably off-key.
Though her performance plummeted, the energy onstage and in the crowd remained high. Spins, sways, shakes and shimmies distracted from her poor vocal delivery, but unless mind-altering hallucinogens were involved, there was no escape from her flat resound.
Occasionally, an intermission would signal the end of a verse and cut off Uchis’ voice. Rather than settle into the music, Uchis continued movin’ and groovin’ to keep the audience entertained. Then, breathless and taken aback, Uchis would miss her cues when it came time to come back with the melody. She was unable to achieve what many seasoned performers are able to do – sing and dance at the same time.
Though she missed the mark when it came to multitasking, Uchis did hit strides during her show. Her dazzling entrance built up anticipation before guests Tyler, The Creator and BIA were harmoniously added into the set. When she broke out into “Nuestro Planeta,” her Latin fans shouted and sang along.
Though what Uchis produces in the studio doesn’t reflect how she sounds on a live stage, there’s still hope. Even performers like Beyoncé weren’t born with perfect breath control and skillful hand-eye coordination. Hopefully, with practice, Uchis can replicate her album sound.