The Paramount Theatre was the perfect venue to house Tori Kelly’s Hiding Place Tour, a tour named after her latest album released this September with 8 new tracks. The show was a safe space where Tori only welcomed positive energy and left negativity out of the venue. I came to this venue not knowing who Tori Kelly was beside the knowledge that she had gained her fame through YouTube. For those who don’t know, Tori Kelly did receive notoriety by putting herself out in the world on YouTube at age 14 and auditioned for American Idol when she was 16. Now 25, Tori Kelly joins people together through her music as she tours around the country.
The marquee shined bright in the middle of downtown Austin, Tx. Fans were taking pictures with it while others placed themselves on a long line to enter the concert. Inside, fans found their seats, bought merchandise, took selfies in front of the stage, and waited for Tori’s appearance. A little over an hour after doors opened, the house lights turned off, the stage lights gave the venue a blue haze, and the crowd was getting excited, chanting “Tori, Tori, Tori…!” The band started lazily playing their instruments, which then crescendoed to a 7-piece full-sounding ensemble. Then Tori’s came into the mix, breaking through the rhythm section’s sound. The crowd roared the Paramount despite Tori not being on stage yet. Slowly she walked out from stage-left and made an exclamation point to her presence.
Tori Kelly started off strong and powerful. She started with “Masterpiece,” “Hollow,” “Sunday,” and “Unbreakable Smile” during her first third of the show. As a first time listener, I was hooked to Tori Kelly. Kelly started off her show on the right foot with her audience, ensuring that they will have a great time singing along, and having an intimate show with Tori Kelly.
During her fifth song of the night, she brought in Brandon Winbush, her tenor background vocals, to the centre stage with her to accompany her singing of “Just As Sure.” This was the first time during that night when I saw what else Tori could sing. Her first four pieces showed off her vocal prowess. She was easily able to fill a theatre of over 1,200 seats from corner to corner, but “Just As Sure” with Brandon showed that she also slows down and has vocal control while doing so. Brandon was an amazing singer who knew how to let Tori keep the spotlight but also when to take control of it. I really enjoyed this moment when Tori and Brandon traded their energy between themselves, never breaking conservation.
After an acoustic version of Nobody Love with her guitarist Chris Payne, which I hope gets released on Spotify soon, she performed, “Actress,” which I haven’t been able to find a studio recording of so far. The song had ear-catching lyrics such as “Fake it ‘till you make it, so there’s no time to be real.” I definitely need a clean recording of this song. “Should’ve Been Us” followed which, again, filled the entire venue. Then Tori took, the first of a few, a minute to talk about Food For Hunger.
Tori Kelly paired up with Food For Hungry, a non-profit which says has been inspired by Christian beliefs to combat world hunger by accepting donations, which sponsors a child living in malnourished communities. With Tori Kelly, one can donate $1 per day to a child’s community, though the website says it is $38 per month. She asked the audience that if they want more information, they can text Tori to 38470.
Next, Tori sang Psalm 42, which she said was the song she felt was missing after writing the rest of the entire Hidden Place album. She took a moment to talk about a death in her family, which inspired this song, and talked about how Psalm 42 completed the album. She globalized the meaning by acknowledging that the world is obviously not in peace with violence around the world and the Thousand Oak shooting which occurred this week (The wildfires in Thousand Oaks were not in the news yet). She connected this theme of violence by asking questions to God with “Questions.”
After “Questions,” Tori expressed her sadness that the show was going closer to the end (which a fan responded with “You can keep going!”) She took a video of the crowd which she posted on her Instagram story for the audience to then look her up and view themselves in her stories. “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” played next which had the audience clapping to the beat. Without losing energy, the band kept that full sound; Tori’s voice was still delicate but rich in tone. As soon as the song ended, the stage fell to blue just like it did right before the show started, and the stage was empty.
Peaches, Brandon, and Revon came back to the stage and sat in the three out of four stools placed in the middle of the stage with Tori following them and taking the fourth. While every other song was sung along by the audience, “Soul’s Anthem” left the audience in silence as they appreciated Tori’s and her backup vocals’ driven voices. Every beat of their combined voices led you to the next while keeping a safe balance between the four. This song really shined the backup singer’s potential. At the end of the piece, Tori thanked her band and reminded the audience that they’re “Never Alone” which capped Tori Kelly’s concert.
Right before finishing off her show, Kelly said she “(couldn’t) let (us) go just yet” and handed started handing off the chorus of the song to the audience. She split the room from right to left, and each section was responsible for singing the chorus and being its own supporting singers. She called the band to stop playing, leaving the audience the only source of music in the room. The ensemble walked to the front of the stage to appreciate the audience’s singing and let them continue as they walked off stage, ending the night.
Tori was joined on stage with her backup singers, Peaches, Brandon, and Revon; Chris Payne on guitar, Edwin on bass, John on the keyboard, and her drummer whose name I didn’t catch. This ensemble, in addition to Tori’s voice which projects throughout the theatre, sets The Hiding Place Tour apart from her studio recording and makes her concerts a must-experience event. Peaches, Brandon, and Revon beautifully compliment Tori’s voice which still breaks through her crew’s full, complete sound. Listening to Tori Kelly live is a must for any fan. This is experience is unreproducible digitally, and I was spoiled for having experienced it first hand without any knowledge of who Tori Kelly was. I highly recommend going whenever she releases dates to her next tour.
The setlist for The Paramount Theatre, Austin, Tx: 1. Masterpiece 2. Hollow 3. Sunday 4. Unbreakable Smile 5. Just As Sure 6. Nobody Love / Expensive 7. Actress 8. All In My Head / Dear No One 9. Should’ve Been Us 10. Help Us To Love 11. Psalm 42 12. Questions / I’ll Find You / Funny 13. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing 14. Soul’s Anthem 15. Never Alone