As a dreamy night sky painting towers above the venue, a vivid red moon shines bright beyond three archways, illuminating the crowd awaiting a star’s presence. Old Hollywood feathers cover the starlight as dancers ascend her up a flight of stairs. And then it begins, welcome, Kali Uchis.
The feathers disappear and the spotlight is all on Uchis, decked in a monochromatic red two-piece and her hair slicked back in a low ponytail reaching her waist. Before Uchis can get a word out, the crowd is in uproar as the synths of her hit single “telepatía” hypnotizes them.
“You guys need to show me you’re better than night one” says the 28-year-old genre-blending singer. This is the second of a sold-out, two-night show at the iconic Aragon Ballroom in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. She performs more than 20 songs in just under an hour and a half, playing classics from her debut EP, Por Vida and unreleased material, to reggaeton and salsa-classic covers and new material from her third album, Red Moon in Venus. The crowd follows her lead in unison all night long. “I always tell everyone that I love Chicago”—and it showed.
The night was a reflection of Uchis’ decades-long career with her honing in on her unique sound, all while mastering multiple genres from bedroom pop and R&B to reggaeton and psychedelic soul. Her vocals carried the show into a dream you never wanted to wake up from. Uchis’ songs explore the growth she has undergone over the years with the sharp, middle finger anthem to an unhealthy relationship on “Dead to Me” to her impressive lead single “I Wish You Roses” telling the narrative of being able to leave a former relationship with no resentment.
“I really don’t let a lot of people into my life, it takes a lot” says the self-described singer before performing a slowed-down rendition of “Loner” for longtime fans of Uchis. But even in moments of laid, chilled-back performances, Uchis put on a full show with six complementary dancers, choreography rehearsed to a tee and lighting highlighting every single step and hip movement on stage.
Even as Kali Uchis steams through her discography, she saves time for moments of intimacy with the audience, delivering speeches about following your dreams and maintaining self-confidence despite outside opinions. These conversations invite fond memories of the various moments I’ve seen Uchis perform live throughout the years. Five years ago, I witnessed the starlight perform at the beloved Concord Music Hall for a small, yet intimate crowd. Now, she’s touring across the world, selling out shows and achieving success in the U.S. mainstream and Latin music scene.
So, maybe she has a point about following your own dreams and intuition and just ignoring your haters.
Words by Mikey Izquierdo for Staged Haze and photo by Macy Bryant
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