Front Row: Kelis Watch the R&B star perform "Breakfast" at her first American appearance in more than three years at NPR Music's SXSW Showcase at Stubb's, then stream the full set. It was well worth the wait.

Front Row

SXSW 2014: Kelis, 'Breakfast'

Listen To Kelis's Entire SXSW Concert

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/285775329/289953702" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Kelis hadn't taken the stage in America since 2010. But from her opening notes — in which she took on the standard "Feeling Good," as popularized by Nina Simone — the singer never shied away from the most lavish possible spectacle on stage at NPR Music's SXSW showcase, held at Stubb's BBQ. Backed by a 12-piece band, complete with horn section and backup singers, Kelis reintroduced herself to the world as a transformed artist whose sound looks forward and backward without losing its focus on the present.

The singer most frequently identified with the 2003 smash "Milkshake" — "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard" remains one of the most quotable lines in '00s pop — has evolved and experimented in the decade since. On Food, a new album due late next month, Kelis is fully recast as an inventive and unpredictable soul singer, aided significantly by the production work of Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio. In taking some of its songs to the stage Wednesday night, she presided over a full-fledged soul revue with the confidence and gravitas of a decorated soul veteran.

Still, this phase of Kelis' career is about liberation and rebirth rather than a desire to escape past successes; the fizzy playfulness of old has given way to an audacious intensity. Naturally, past hits like "Milkshake" and 2010's "Acapella" make memorably grandiose appearances here. But, like the singer herself, they're reinvented, buoyed by the graceful gravity of a star reborn.

Audio Set List

  • "Feeling Good"
  • "Breakfast"
  • "Millionaire"
  • "Cobbler"
  • "Feeling Good" (excerpt)
  • "Trick Me"
  • "Friday Fish Fry"
  • "Forever Be"
  • "Milkshake"
  • "Jerk Ribs"
  • "Acapella"
  • "Feeling Good" (excerpt)
  • "Rumble"

Credits

Producers: Saidah Blount, Mito Habe-Evans, Robin Hilton; Technical Director: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Becky Harlan, Eric Helton, Olivia Merrion; Video Director: A.J. Wilhelm; Audio: Timothy Powell/Metro Mobile, Josh Rogosin; Production Assistants: Lizzie Chen, Kiana Fitzgerlad, Christopher Parks, Mary Pryor; Special Thanks: SXSW, Stubb's BBQ; Executive Producer: Anya Grundman

[+] read more[-] less

More From R&B/Soul

Allen Stone plays a Tiny Desk concert (Max Posner/NPR). Max Posner/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Max Posner/NPR

Allen Stone

The soul singer demonstrated a commitment to the Tiny Desk that we rarely, if ever, see.

Tarriona "Tank" Ball plays a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert. NPR/NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR/NPR

Tarriona 'Tank' Ball (Home) Concert

"Don't go out to the cookout." The leader of Tank and the Bangas spreads pure joy from her living room in New Orleans.

Rex Orange County plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Kisha Ravi/NPR). Kisha Ravi/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Kisha Ravi/NPR

Rex Orange County

Watch the low-key British pop star perform "Sunflower," "Loving Is Easy" and more at the Tiny Desk.

Chika plays a Tiny Desk concert (Max Posner/NPR). Max Posner/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Max Posner/NPR

Chika

The 23-year old rapper from Alabama went for a stripped-down set anchored by a Peruvian cajón.

Snoh Aalegra plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR). Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR

Snoh Aalegra

The Iranian-Swedish singer draws her musical cues from Brandy and Sade while racking up a list of collaborators such as Vince Staples, James Fauntleroy and, most recently, Pharrell Williams.

Baby Rose plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Kisha Ravi/NPR). Kisha Ravi/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Kisha Ravi/NPR

Baby Rose

At 25, she mixes the bluesy melisma of Nina Simone and the deep register of Sarah Vaughan — two of her influences — with songwriting as devastating as her delivery.

SiR plays a Tiny Desk Concert bob boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption bob boilen/NPR

SiR

The R&B singer from Inglewood, CA made his performance a family affair, dedicating it to his late godson, with his mother and older brother on backup vocals.

Yola Carter performs during tiny desk on December, 12, 2019. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Yola

The singer who once sang for Massive Attack and sampled by Iggy Azalea and The Chemical Brothers, is front-and-center at the Tiny Desk.

Jordan Rakei performs during Tiny Desk on Nov. 15 2019. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Jordan Rakei

Despite some unexpected gear problems, the soulful R&B artist and his band locked-in and played a phenomenal set behind the Tiny Desk.

Jon Batiste performs during Tiny Desk on November, 8 2019. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste's Tiny Desk Concert was published prematurely. The new publication date is March 2020.

Back To Top