Monday, November 18, 2013

Tori Kelly at Irving Plaza

Victoria “Tori” Kelly was born in 1992 in Wildomar, California, to a Puerto Rican/Jamaican father who is a singer and bassist and a German/Irish mother who plays piano and saxophone. Kelly began singing at age three and entered her first singing competition at age six. She began playing drums at age 12 and later moved on to guitar and piano. She began writing songs when she was 14 years old. Kelly appeared on the television talent shows Star Search and America's Most Talented Kids, and nearly became a contestant on American Idol. In time, she took her music online and, even without ever recording a full album, her YouTube channel has more than 55 million views and almost 700,000 subscribers. Her Foreword EP was released on October 22, 2013.

Kelly was the sole supporting act to Ed Sheeran at Madison Square Garden on November 1, and two weeks later headlined her own show at Irving Plaza. Just a month short of her 21st birthday, Tori Kelly is not old enough to enter a lot of music clubs, but Irving Plaza is an all-ages venue. In this more intimate setting, Kelly demonstrated how she would have been a natural for American Idol. The television series seems to specialize in white singers who sound Black, and Black singers who sound white. Here was Kelly, a mixed race singer, singing and performing solo on acoustic or electric guitar, belting like a soaring gospel singer and opening herself up like a poetic singer-songwriter. Especially in this bare-bones setting, Kelly’s music projected vulnerability, insight, vitality and conviction. Having a passionate, soulful voice made her songs that much sweeter. Her charm seemed to appeal largely to the below-drinking age women in the audience, but there is no denying that Kelly is a powerhouse of talent that can reach a wider audience.

Visit Tori Kelly at