Robin McKelle is undoubtedly a hardcore rock-chick: her vocals are raunchy, hard, sexy and gritty, but also bluesy, resonant and sonically powerful. McKelle took command of the stage at Joe’s Pub with radiant ease, belting out blues and funk tracks from her album, Heart Of Memphis, for which she penned 11 out of the 13 songs. Playful and charismatic, the performer warmed up the audience quickly, joking about how she preferred her bandmates who didn’t have kids– the parents always left the road for their children.
Stating that it was 95% a “true story,” McKelle sang the title track – one of the best songs from her album – with a bluesy and warm tone, and everything afterwards was a party. The audience fell in love with McKelle, with shouts and cheers constantly exploding from the seated crowd – we were itching to get out of our seats to join her groove.
When McKelle performed “Good Time,” it was almost too easy for her to get everyone out of their seats. Dropping down onto her knees and rocking out on stage, she exuded such high energy that it bombarded the audience, causing everyone to get up and dance with her. McKelle mentioned that she was told not to ask us to get up, because we surely wouldn’t join in, but with a charisma and infectious energy as powerful as hers, we all wanted to share in it and break the rules.
Escalating the dance vibe of the night, McKelle delivered powerful, pitched scream notes, wowing (and scaring) the audience. She continued to sing Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” keeping the audience dancing and rocking out.
The atmosphere quickly changed as she then crooned the yearning ballad, “Forgetting You,” heartfelt and magnificently, finishing with Albert King’s, “Feel Like Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home.” Her vocal versatility and endurance are highly impressive, bringing the audience up and carrying them down with the perfectly crafted setlist, something that could only be pulled off by the undeniably talented and mesmerizing Robin McKelle.
– Jason Kwan