I saw Mahalia live for the first time in 2016 at The Great Escape festival, in Brighton. She had freshly celebrated her 18th birthday and I remember thinking “So young, yet so mesmerizing”. Curious to see how her performing skills had evolved in two years — especially since her latest releases all benefit from full-on productions, I didn’t want to miss her first headline show in Brussels, on March 29th at Ancienne Belgique. And, oh boy, she didn’t disappoint. A couple of songs were enough to remind me all the reasons why I love Mahalia. Here are 5 of them:
1. She grew up in front of our eyes
It took my friend Charlotte to introduce me to Mahalia back in 2015 and thanks to her, I’m now one of these few people who will be able to brag in a few years that they have physical copies of her first EPs and that they heard Sober months before that viral COLORS video, when she was randomly sang it on Snapchat shortly after writing it. But the British troubadour penned her first song at 8 and already had her major record deal by 13 following a tweet by Ed Sheeran who had discovered her self-released Head Space EP!
2. She burps (silently) on stage
There are two categories of people in life: the ones who stare at themselves when filming IG Stories and the others, who just let themselves be. Mahalia would definitely be part of the second group. “I will be myself ’cause I like who I’m becoming”, she sings in 17, one of my favorite tracks. And this is not a gimmick to surf on that self-care trend: she’s gloriously genuine and carefree. There’s no lie, no act, no mask. She will stop singing to cover her burps if needed and then jokingly tell you that she thinks she should probably see a doctor. But I think she should just keep on eructing as it is oddly charming. Also, Mahalia, from me to you, I’m pretty convinced you just swallow a lot of air when you drink — well, at least this is what happens to me.
3. She’s versatile
I was a bit doubtful about how her old acoustic songs (although Nineteen85 had worked some of his magic on the Never Change EP in 2015) would flow into her new “very” produced singles but the girl has no trouble switching her guitar for killer dance moves. The transitions were all executed smoothly and her greatest strength (see point 4) remains the governing principle of her entire catalogue…
4. She’s a fucking amazing storyteller
Her spoken-word Back Up Plan perfectly demonstrates what already stroke me the most when I saw her 2 years ago: her perfect and captivating diction, delivering simple yet beautifully crafted stories and anecdotes from everyday life. Trust me, it’s rare that I find myself drinking each word and lyrics when I attend a concert. But Mahalia’s songs are something else. They breathe… They live.
5. She’s the queen of crowd interaction
There are 3 ways to make me leave your concert fully satisfied (aside from singing live AND amazingly well): 1. putting on a show (I’m talking dancers, stage design and fireworks) — which is my favorite when I spend over 75€ on my ticket 2. bringing a new dimension to the music (there’s nothing I hate more than when I can’t tell the difference between attending your gig and listening to your album in my room) 3. getting personal. Mahalia’s latest full-length project was called Diary of Me and this is exactly how her live shows feel: like a heart-to-heart with your best friend. Except I never got a chance to tell her that I also wrote my first song for a crush that didn’t like me back. Nope, you certainly don’t wanna hear it.
What you’d love to hear however is Mahalia’s new single No Reply, which is coming up in a couple of weeks! If you’re a Belgian fan who missed her gig, you might also be pleased to know that you’ll be getting a second chance on June 29th at Couleur Café in Brussels…