Photos: Kehlani returns home and leads by example

Kehlani, Kehlani Ashley Parrish

Photos: Jay Demetillo

BERKELEY — Kehlani grew up in Oakland and attended Berkeley High School, not too far from the Greek Theatre. At her sold-out show Friday, the second of two East Bay gigs this week, the R&B singer-songwriter drew massive cheers when she proclaimed, “I walked down this stage when I graduated from high school! … Everybody told me I wouldn’t make it. But I’m living proof that anything is possible.”

Flanked by dancers and DJ (DJ Noodles), Kehlani’s set was full of mesmerizing choreography and hit after hit from her 2016 album SweetSexySavage. The rising star electrified the Berkeley crowd with songs like “Distraction,” “Keep On,” “Gangsta” and “CRZY.”

During breaks in her set, Kehlani encouraged fans to donate and support their communities. She’s been working with various shelters and nonprofit organizations at each stop during her tour. She also encouraged empathy and support for the LGBT community.

Kehlani performed “Thank You” near the end of her set, almost as a sincere gesture to her hometown, empowering not only her fans but her rising impact on the music world.

Jahkoy, one of two openers, brought his laid-back, soulful musical aesthetic to the show. The second, Ella Mai seemed to connect with the audience a bit more with her perfect mix of smooth R&B vocals and sultry sex appeal. The YouTube star from London has built a massive following online. But it’s not just online success. Ella Mai’s talent is undeniable.

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