Every YouTube star yearns for that big break, that one day they’ll expand from the four walls of their bedroom and make it to the big time. Tori Kelly is among a very rare breed of people who manage that and after shooting to stardom almost suddenly, she had not only managed to break free of recording her own videos at home but has flown all over the world, living her dream, landing in Manchester where she performs at the O2 Ritz.
Thirty minutes following the initial door opening and the line still spans half of Whitworth Street, which homes the venue, as well as three blocks away around the corner. The show is a sell-out with the chorus of die-hard fans crammed into every corner of the room, most having followed Kelly from her humble beginnings on YouTube.
From the get go and for the full 16 strong set, Kelly has the entirety of the room in the palm of her hands. Though a full band backs her, they aren’t particularly necessary for the show. They don’t add to the atmosphere and fans don’t seem to care for the beats of the drum or the tapping of keys by the keyboard player at the back, all they want to see is Tori Kelly and her guitar. One benefit of the band is that sometimes Kelly is able to strip herself of her instrument and focus on connecting with her audience, moving from each side of the stage to the other, pointing out members of the crowd to give them their own intimate moment.
She sets it aside again around five songs in, sitting down on a chair to have a chat with her fans. Their screams are deafening and is not in any way an exaggeration, even Kelly comments on the crowd being ‘the loudest of the tour’ as their cheers reverberate off of the intricately patterned walls of the venue. Even those on the balcony, most of them with drinks in their hands can hardly contain their excitement for seeing her perform, some for the very first time.
It’s been a few years since a video of Tori Kelly performing Thinkin’ About You by Frank Ocean went viral and of course, for old times sake, it was weaved into her set as part of a cover medley along with Justin Timberlake’s Suit and Tie as well as Michael Jackson’s PYT. These weave nicely into some of the slower numbers of the set, leading quickly to I Was Made For Loving You.
Originally she performed this song with Ed Sheeran but as he wasn’t part of the tour, Kelly asked for the audience to help her out. At Ed’s part everyone came together seamlessly, with the lyrics clear as day, all the while on stage Kelly is beaming as if she’s blown away by how beautiful everyone sounds together. It’s a sweet moment for both audience and Kelly, something memorable as they finish the song together.
If nothing else, the one thing worth mentioning is Tori Kelly’s immense talent. Even if you’ve never heard of her before, walking into O2 Ritz, it’s hard not to see how she shines as her versatility and range is enough to blow even the biggest music critics away. Though some of the tracks performed can at times sound a little similar, Kelly never fails to pull it back and her fans don’t seem to notice at all. Everyone is just grateful to hear her do what she clearly does best and that’s sing her heart out.