Photography by David Harris
Her standout 2018 album didn’t get the live performance it deserved.
Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E. was, for me one of the standout releases of 2018; a soulful slice of modern R&B, tastefully undercooked, brimming with originality and showcasing the most interesting creative sides of both Taylor and producer Kanye West. Consequently, it gives me no pleasure to say that almost none of what makes the album enjoyable was on display at last night’s poorly attended show at The Forum.
Things weren’t looking promising when Taylor took to the stage to the sounds of album opener ‘No Manners’, surrounded by a trio of dancers, a drummer, keyboardist and a buff, shirtless hype-man, who stood in front of some DJ equipment that would remain untouched. Following a truncated version of album highlight ‘Hurry’, Taylor left the stage for the first of several overly long costume changes, having still not sung more than a chorus, while the two-man band awkwardly tried to fill the space with long keyboard notes and cymbal splashes.
When they returned, the group performed a long slow grind dance while the band played a slow instrumental version of ‘3Way’, the focus of which was a young girl from the audience who was invited to take a seat centre stage and be grinded upon. The girl seemed both exhilarated and mortified as Taylor sang the words to her while simulating touching herself and then providing a lapdance. That section was indicative of the entire gig — it wasn’t original (Nicki Minaj did the exact same bit during her show here in January), was unintentionally awkward, made worse by some very shaky choreography, which in turn seemed even more ridiculous by the fact that two of the dancer’s crop tops kept unintentionally exposing their breasts, and featured a very minimal amount of singing.
In fact, as evidenced by the three-dancers-and-shirtless-buff-guy vs. two-musicians-playing-over-a-backing-track ratio, the music was decidedly secondary, it’s just a shame that they hadn’t put more effort into everything else.
‘Do Not Disturb’ and ‘Maybe’ from 2014’s debut VII made appearances, though the inclusion of the Yo Gotti and Pusha T verses via the backing track of the latter song seemed like an odd choice in a set that was skipping so many of Taylor’s own verses.
‘WTP’ provided a welcome, and much needed rise in tempo, though instead of singing, Taylor used the brief portion of the song that was played to perform some more choreography that perhaps was a just a little under-rehearsed.
“Y’all ready for more?” yelled the hype-man, who we were later introduced to as Taylor’s husband, while the troupe exited for another costume change. At this point, the entire show felt like one long encore section, and she was yet to actually sing an entire song.
‘Issues/Hold On’ at least rectified this, and Taylor sounded good. She doesn’t have a large range and is not a perfect singer, but her voice does have a lot of character, perfectly communicating attitude and vulnerability as she does throughout K.T.S.E.
Breaking things down yet again for a vocal and keys take on ‘Are You Gonna Love Me’ also sounded good, until someone tried to bring the backing track in at the wrong place in the second verse. “Y’all are fucking up my music,” she said, to whoever’s job that was.
This was followed by yet another breakdown, with a slow voice-and-keys rendition of ‘Never Would Have Made It’ that just made it seem like she was padding out the set.
“Thank you so much, good night!” she cried as the lights went down and then came up again before she had left the stage, or anyone had had the chance to leave. They finished with a terrible version of her best song, ‘Rose in Harlem’, which for an inexplicable reason was delivered in the style of that Jay-Z and Linkin Park collab, the drummer finally getting to pound his skins while Taylor and the dancers jumped around the stage and Buff Hubby screamed some backing vocals (“It be THE ONES!” I shit you not). The Forum staff were caught unaware by the crowd streaming out of the theatre 50 minutes after the main act had begun, quickly opening doors and unhooking ropes.
I know, I know, I hate writing bad reviews, and I loved that album too and if I had more positive things to say I would, but that was one bizarre and underwhelming gig.