With support from UK artists RD, Angel, and Starboy Nathan, Keri Hilson was the American headliner. Despite having one arm in a cast, DJ Mars warmed up the crowd further before Hilson arrived on stage at 9.50pm to take the audience to another planet.
In this galaxy, we breathed in R&B, Hip-Hop and Electro music like it was oxygen. Hilson’s space suit was comprised of sunglasses, a silver Mac, leather hot pants and a leather bra top. Her two dancers Tia and Kayla mirror her style with the addition of kneepads. Protective gear was necessary as they attacked Hilson’s songs Gimme What I Want, Turning Me On and The Way You love Me with energy as their weaponry, and Drummer Bennie Rodgers as their accomplice.
Hilson passes the mic
Hilson encouraged her fans to “bounce” to the sounds of Atlanta Georgia grown beats as she eased into Lose Control. She quickly lost her Mac as she demonstrated her vocal prowess on Slow Dance. Slow dance over, Hilson pressed fast-forward as she scouted for talent.
Hilson scouts for talent
Her search yielded laughs when ladies raised their hands in response to her declaration: “I’m looking for somebody right now.” Noticing the danger of her lack of clarity, she urged the ladies to lower their hands and insisted she was looking for a feller – a chocolate single feller!
28-year-old Hilson singled one out but had trouble identifying him. “Tardray? I’m gonna go with T!” But her find was in vain her female fans were having none of it and quickly began chanting: “No boys allowed” – the title of her sophomore album. Acknowledging the irony, Hilson replied, “I see you ladies, calm down – boys are good for one thing,” which seemed to appease the ladies.
Hilson steps with her dancers
The battle of the sexes over, and dazzling with an asymmetrical gold bob, bling and love from the almost sold out venue, Hilson continued on her intergalactic tour with snippets of One Night Stand and Number One. Worried in vain that the audience could hear the microphone feedback as she did, she asked the engineers to “kill the reverb.”
But nothing disrupted the quality of Hilson’s expressive performance. Some have argued that she echoes Aaliyah or Ciara, but on this night, Hilson shone like a star in a style that was distinctly hers. Though her link to songs such as Got Your Back may have been a tad cliché, the quality of her material, such as my favourite Bahm Bahm (Do It Once Again) / I Want You, which earned its rewind, made up for the script.
Hilson's vocals strike the right note
Surprises added to the freshness of the gig most notably when one of the many male musicians Hilson has duetted with, Chipmunk, joined her on stage for In The Air. But the party continued without him as Hilson, who has just been appointed as an ambassador for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, slipped into Turn My Swag On before taking a break.
Generously, we were transported to Miami with the sounds of Pitbull and the throwing of beach balls before Hilson reappeared to perform ‘Til We Get It Right, I like and her favourite songs from her debut album In a Perfect World and sophomore follow-up – Lose control/Let Me Down, Energy and Hustler.
In the spotlight Hilson’s raspy voice sizzled on Beautiful Mistake. As if we weren’t drunk on the vocal delivery, she questioned those without drinks in their hands. Far from sobering things up, Hilson continued to create addicts out of her audience selling the sounds of fun with Get Your Money Up – the Biggie Get Money mix. The sounds were now full length and the audience got to hear every last drop of Buyou.
Boys were excluded as Hilson stood centre stage
But there were two tracks that the crowd awaited. While X Factor finalists such as Misha B and Janet sat in the VIP lounge, Hilson called her own VIPs to the stage dismissing the pretenders who answered her call. It was a saccharine moment when the young girls joined her to sing and dance to Pretty Girl Rock.
Hilson declared the song was about interior beauty and self esteem. Insisting she was not male bashing, she switched pace with All The Boys. She couldn’t leave the stage aware that she was ‘forgetting’ to perform the Grammy nominated Knock You Down. It was a memorable night for both sexes and if men are as Martian as her DJ, Hilson proved that Venus rocks!