Mahalia review – daydreams and diary entries from rising R&B star

Band on the Wall, Manchester
After support slots for Ed Sheeran and Emili Sandé, this budget tour has its limitations – but Mahalia’s charm and honeyed voice carry her through

Rising star Mahalia Burkmar explains how she started writing songs when she was 12, writing them all about one boy in school that she was crazy about. One – still in her live set – is titled Marry Me. “You can probably understand why he ran away from me,” she chuckles.

Her romantic intentions went unrewarded, but otherwise, the tracksuited 19-year old has hardly looked back since. She signed to a major at 13, toured with Emili Sandé and Ed Sheeran, racked up millions of streams and was featured in many “tips for 2018” lists. It’s easy to see why. She flits comfortably between soul and R&B, with a reggae lilt, has a honeyed voice and endearing natural charm. “I’m from Leicester,” she says, referring to the hometown shared with Kasabian and Showaddywaddy. “In case you’re wondering about my funny accent.”

A similar intimate, conversational style peppers her songs, which are like emotional diary entries, full of relatable crises, rejections, parental advice and daydreams. Back Up Plan (“Soon I’ll be on TV and I won’t have to dream no more”) could sound trite if she wasn’t already mature enough to throw in a kissoff: “But it don’t come free”. Although the budget live format here – the singer, a bassist, prerecorded grooves and a brief, compelling cameo appearance from her poet brother – has limitations, the crowd sing the YouTube-steamrollering Sober with her and even chant her name. As for that old muse, she reveals that he finally asked her out, but years later, when they were no longer children. And yes, she has a song about that as well.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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