Review — Mahalia’s Silky Vocals Hold the Audience Captive at Ophelia’s

The room was packed, shoulders rubbing shoulder, eyes peeking through narrow windows of arms, all eager to see Mahalia, the UK R&B artist, who is currently on her “In Real Life” tour promoting the album of the same name. The Denver crowd erupted as soon as she stepped on stage to perform her song “Ready.” Their cheers echoed the dramatic entrance, heightened by the instant energy both she and the band brought. Her soft British charm beamed through as she addressed the audience, effortlessly funny and authentically herself.

Her voice immediately grabbed all attention. It was soft and raspy, a sweet whisper, but at times it was strikingly powerful. A breathtaking blend of speed and verbal acuity, it filled the room with a serene aura. Mahalia started performing live at 11 years old and her skills were those of a true veteran. Her ability to create a genuine connection with her fans set the stage on fire, building an atmosphere many artists strive for but few achieve. Her interactions were like a conversation with a friend that makes you cry from laughter. She said, “Many of my songs come from therapy. ‘I’ll think, wow, that was toxic, but it’d make a great song.’” Her blunt honesty cracked smiles throughout the room.

Apologizing for missing a previous Denver show due to unforeseen circumstances, Mahalia cheekily joked about feeling a slight tickle in her throat but insisted she couldn’t miss this show. The Denver audience clearly agreed because the room was rocking. She joked that she was forced back by the first cheers of the audience, and the excitement only grew as the show progressed.

She wove her way through the setlist, showcasing her incredible musical range. “Cheat,“ featuring JOJO, displayed a cuttingly 2000s R&B pop vibe with infectious hooks that left the audience hypnotized. From earlier guitar-led melodies reminiscent of Norah Jones to the evolved sounds of IRL, her latest album, Mahalia’s R&B expertise was on full display. Her work is a true homage to the genre.

Despite the evolving setlist, one thing stayed consistent: the crowd’s devotion to Mahalia. Her charisma and talent washed the room in an elated vibe, the spirits in the room high and strangers flowing in unison. IRL has many high-quality features, and while still showcasing those features, Mahalia managed to keep the performance dynamic with flowing harmonies and energetic dance moves that demonstrated her vocal prowess and ability to perform.

At one point, she explained “Plastic Plants,” an infectious bop that finds its inspiration in cinema. It disavows Hollywood’s set expectations and fairytale love. The song offered a glimpse into her introspective side, narrating the search for something “real and tangible.” Sharing personal anecdotes, Mahalia connected with the audience, revealing her growth from a “lover girl” at ten, who would cry over Troy Bolton from High School Musical to navigating the complexities of love at 25. The performance, like the song, seemed like something out of a movie. In a perfectly executed show, the band fully locked in, with Mahalia emerging as the leading lady.

Opening up about her therapy and becoming an “unproblematic babe,” Mahalia revealed that “Isn’t It Strange” was born from her own experiences, delivering a vocal performance that left jaws on the floor. Her storytelling continued, weaving tales of childhood crushes and the challenges of 2020, furthering her intimate connection with the audience.

The band came to the forefront during a particularly mesmerizing section of the show. Their seamless transitions between songs at the audience’s suggestions showcased their mastery. At one point, Mahalia encouraged the audience to join her in a backing harmony for one of her choruses. The room buzzed with talent, smiles spread across every face, and the harmonious atmosphere created a beautiful piece of music.

Taking up a guitar, Mahalia played jazzy chords along with the band — a true performer through and through. She glided along the melody of “Grateful,” and the crowd sang along, providing harmony to every word. The crowd’s dedication was proven further when they roared with recognition at the first note of every song. Mahalia’s performance was exactly what you hope for in a concert: an artist who can bring their music to life in such a way that surpasses even the recorded version. Every note tickled the ear perfectly, her stage presence radiating pure energy. Interacting with the crowd as if among friends, she left faces in amazement, the room totally captivated.

Mahalia’s show at Ophelia’s was more than just a celebration of her new album; it was a loving showcase of her evolution as an artist. It is about human connection, revolting in the face of COVID and lost love, and creating a beautiful experience in that venue. Ophelia’s was overflowing with that unspeakable magic that only a truly great concert can deliver. With this reintroduction into the world, many are sure to fall in love. Undoubtedly underrated but destined for legendary status, Mahalia’s performance and IRL are true gems.

All Photography Courtesy of @evan.a.dale


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