On September 27th, 2018, Kali Uchis had a date with Austin, Texas. Those of us who were lucky enough to snag a ticket for her sold-out show at Stubb’s Amphitheater witnessed one of the most mesmerizing performers of our time. With each hip twist and every note sung, Kali Uchis never let us forget what we came for. But let me start at the beginning.
Gabriel Garzón-Montano opened up the night for us. From what I could hear, his lyrics were not the best. Banalities such as, “Everything is everything,” blared through the speakers. Admittedly, my friends and I shared a laugh at that one. His charisma and energy allowed me to forgive him, though. He even went so far as to do a costume change, which I thought was a bold move for an opening act.
At the end of his set, he gave a shout-out to all the fellow individuals of Colombian-descent and stated something along the lines of, “Never forget your childhood.” The applause and support from the crowd reminded me that I was no longer in the white-washed space that typically shrouds central Austin. I was in a refuge with other marginalized individuals that were people of color, from the LGBTQIA community, or simply those who were not generally accepted by society. That night, we all came together for a night of suspended reality. The stage was set forKali Uchis to set foot on stage.
Uchis’ live band were the first ones to come on stage. Tension kept building as the audience frantically yelled and searched for a glimpse of the Colombian-American singer. Finally, we were able to see Uchis’ silhouette as she posed behind a white screen. At that point, everyone was pushing and screaming for her to come out. Then, all of a sudden, the intro to “Dead toMe” started and Uchis was onstage. The screams were deafening. She indulged the crowd and worked every inch of the stage, making sure to reach even the furthest ends.
Her set was so intimate that it felt as if everyone was personally being serenaded by Uchis. As she charged through her set, every twist of the hip, hair flip, and twirl felt as if Uchis was giving us a striptease. She was aware of the effect and power she had over us, and teased us even more in between songs. She would take the time to explain the concept and origin of songs. While this provided great insight to her craft, it created even more tension and anxiety in the audience to hear the next song on the setlist.
For the second half of the set, Uchis stated that the songs would be stripped down performances. She explained that these songs were not originally part of the setlist, but the high demand from fans encouraged her to play the songs anyway. “In My Dreams” was definitely a standout track for me. As a fan of Damon Albarn, I was especially familiar with this song due to his contribution in production and lyrics. The beautifully simple instrumentation allowed the lyrics to breathe. Uchis’ song about her life story of dreams becoming reality could be better heard and understood in this understated performance.
I also have to mention the amazing covers she chose to perform on this tour. My favorite choices for the night were Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and Gloria Trevi’s “Todos Me Miran.”With “I Feel Love” known for its popularity among gay dance clubs and “Todos Me Miran” being a defiant celebration of standing out, both songs were well-suited songs for Uchis and her audience. Uchis’ choices in covers shows how meticulously she worked to create the perfect atmosphere for her fans.
That night was a celebration of being different. Kali Uchis carefully curated the setlist which allowed the perfect atmosphere to blossom. Her hypnotizing movements and warm, caramel voice lured us right into her trap, where all of us gleefully remained captive. Kali Uchis showed everyone how confidence is forged from going against the grain. Her stance against cookie-cutter stardom allowed her to construct her own version of power. Her unique experiences and philosophy made her into the icon she is today. Even Garzón-Montano’s words inspired and reminded everyone that our roots are precious and should be protected as such. Our unique history as marginalized individuals gives us the opportunity to pave our own path to success against all odds.
That night was truly magical. Seeing fellow Latinx artists proclaim their difference and take part in the celebration of it was an inspiring thing to experience. The only thing left to do now is to go out and chase that feeling.