Kelsey Lu | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN
NON-COMM Recap: Kelsey Lu enchants the NPR Music stage on her own terms
It’s hard to guess what the crowd was expecting when they saw Kelsey Lu‘s six-piece band waiting for her on stage. Or when they saw her, with flowing black, red, and orange hair, and ring laden gloves. Despite what they assumed she would sound like, she dazed everyone with her ethereal four song set this evening on the NPR stage. Lu started, just her and her keyboardist, with the title track of her debut album Blood, which was released in April via Columbia records. The song is a touching tribute to the love that permeates all. She delivered it with such conviction, as did her band, who gradually all joined in. From “Blood” she swerved straight into the glitter of “Due West” and got the crowd moving along with her.
Lu is most known for her work as a cellist. Classically trained, she has contributed to work by Blood Orange, Solange, Oneohtrix Point Never, Kelela, and more. Tonight however, Lu did not touch a cello once. The focus was on her mind bending and majestic voice. She mostly sang with her eyes closed, showing that regardless of the fact that she performs them every night, these songs still affect her as much as they do her audiences. The cello was not entirely absent, as one of her band members impressively played an electric one. Another demonstrated expertise of the violin, especially during the dramatic and sultry “Foreign Car.” Bass, guitar, keys, and drums were all present as well, making everything sound lush and full.
The last song of the set, the shimmering “Poor Fake,” Lu introduced as her ode to disco and dance. The somber strings that start the track then caught the crowd off guard. Once the beat kicked in, all doubts and confusion were whisked away. As Lu’s voice did acrobatics, her hair put on a show of its own. She tossed it back and forth, making her floor-length orange braid whip ferociously, matching the melodrama of the song. Every movement Lu and her voice made increased her magnetic pull and coerced the crowd into rapturous applause. In the end, what people expect of Lu doesn’t matter in the slightest. She is going to do her own thing, and we’re all gonna love it.
Check out photos from the Kelsey Lu’ set, and listen to an audio archive below. Blood is out now.