After being put on a Hot 100 pedestal for that first key hit single, musicians either rise to the occasion or don’t. Still riding strong off last fall’s “Gold”, Kiiara did little to expand upon her one-hit-thus-far fanbase last night (November 17) at the Sinclair in Cambridge with a too-short set and an overall unenthused demeanor.
For any musician, having your debut single loop on Top 40 radio is great — glorious, even — until the second you step onstage and realize that you have precisely one song that everyone knows. This is particularly daunting for a headlining gig in a mid-sized room like the Sinclair. If you could sing your hit 10 times in a row and leave, the crowd would like be appeased, but in most cases there’s an entire album or EP to push that very few people actually care about. And during every song that comes before or after that one hit, everyone’s eyes glaze over. It’s a tricky situation to tackle for most new “it” musicians, but still manageable for any performer worth the price on the ticket. Perhaps out of novice, Kiiara didn’t command the stage last night, even with two of her own custom platforms to preach from.
Seemingly sleepwalking onstage in a denim dress from one side of the stage to the other, repeatedly making too-cool hand gestures for emphasis, Kiiara spit out 10 songs in total, saving jagged chart-topper “Gold” for last. And while 10 songs is an appropriate amount in this case, considering she hasn’t released a full album yet (her EP, Low Kii Savage, dropped in March), the nail in the show’s proverbial coffin was the indifferent attitude she delivered.
Even when she talked about her not-so-distant past of sleeping on a futon — which she had to visually schedule into her setlist as a reminder — gratitude was quick between songs and rushed over with little pleasure. Admittedly, the indifferent card works when played correctly; most people, for instance, would beg to be blown off by Lana Del Rey, because with her apathy comes a remarkable charm. But usually, the attitude rubs off as either half-assed or plain rude.
The brief show’s salvation was bowl-you-over bass, the one constant in her performance that kept the party atmosphere thriving. From opener “Tennessee” (a reference to whisky, of course), to her new trip-hop single “Dopemang”, the electronic vibrations never faltered in the 35 minute set.
The Illinois singer’s music is undeniably good; thematically, it’s a mashup of every college party that’s taken place since the turn of the decade, and beat-wise, it’s chilled to perfection. Unfortunately, like any album or song, it translates poorly onstage when the gusto isn’t there, and no amount of bass drops can change that.
Featured photo also by Victoria Wasylak. Follow her on Twitter @VickiWasylak.