Gig review: Kiesza at O2 Academy Leeds

Kiesza. Picture: Roger Deckker
Kiesza. Picture: Roger Deckker
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Everyone has heard that song. You know, that one. ‘Hideaway’ has now been viewed over 20 million times on YouTube and this week Canadian dance artist Kiesza brought her live show to the O2 Academy Leeds.

The set-list was virtually all taken from her patchy debut album ‘Sound of a Woman’ and whilst she might possess the strength of voice that lifts roofs off buildings, the lack of depth to her repertoire was all too obvious throughout the hour long set.

Kiesza started out as a folk singer having taught herself to play guitar during her time in the Navy, but her first single in 2012, ‘Oops’ was ‘disco-infused pop’, a genre she has never looked back from. 
‘Sound of a Woman’ has a handful of catchy dance tracks, the sort that are guaranteed to get a room bouncing along to huge bass beats and frenetic strobe lighting. It also has other songs filling the gaps between those. For her live show, Kiesza has assembled a group of perfectly competent musicians as well as two dancers, both of whom accompanied her for virtually the entire set and were first onto stage for opening song ‘The Love’, before the main attraction appeared through the smoke dressed in denim, tights and boots. Her second single and one that, as it was guaranteed it would, got the entire audience jumping in tandem, ‘No Enemiesz’ arrived in quick succession. And then the set seemed to drift through formulaic tracks before arriving at calmer, quieter central section. A low key cover of Haddaway’s ‘What is Love’ and the album title track provided respite, allowing the crowds heartbeat to return to a normal rhythm before the pace was picked up again, through more entertaining but ultimately forgettable tunes right up to the penultimate song ‘Take Ü There’.

And this is where Kiesza came into her own. The song was introduced as an Ibiza beach formed collaboration with the DJ Diplo and dubstep electro house guru Skrillex and that, combined with Kiesza’s monster vocals, the strobe lighting in the Academy going into overdrive and various band members coming out from behind their instruments, was the tune that lit the blue touch paper. A stand out track which led of course to the obvious finale and the multi million selling track ‘Hideaway’.

And then she was gone. No encore, none really expected given the high the gig finished on. And that’s the issue with Kiesza. As a vocalist she’s tremendous. Her dance routines and enthusiasm infectious. But whether she is able to provide a live set packed with tunes capable of maintaining attention throughout its entirety appears doubtful on current form.

She’s at her best when firing out classic dance hits, reminiscent of 90s and 00s Ibiza, perhaps through collaborations and working alongside established artists. None of the subsequent single releases from ‘Sound...’ reached the dizzy heights of Hideaway – or even came close.

She is undoubtedly a talent, this gig demonstrated that, but the stereotypical ‘difficult second album’ beckons and is likely to decide as to whether Kiesza is capable and willing to take her chosen musical direction to the next level.

Gig date: March 20

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