LIVE REVIEW: K. Flay in Portland, ME (08.09.23)

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LIVE REVIEW: K. Flay in Portland, ME (08.09.23)

There’s nothing shy about Kristine Flaherty, better known as K.Flay, when she takes the stage for a show. She keeps her set up simple, just her, her drummer, and guitarist, all in black; a giant backdrop with her name in large letters as the only exhibition of excess. She makes it all about the music and the feeling, with raw honesty as she invites the crowd into her journey.

Kicking off with “The President Has a Sex Tape,” she built up the pace, with sweet and slow vocals climbing up to a hooky melody. She has a way of making political topics more accessible with the flow of her verse and prose. “Four Letter Words” followed, bringing the angst and tenacity, with her bouncing around the entire stage, owning her presence as everyone chanted along.

“Giver” invited everyone to continue singing with her, as fans seemed to know every word. K.Flay has this unique way of demonstrating how multifaceted her voice and range can be, alternating between singing, rapping verses in quick lyricism, and crooning choruses over sharp instrumentals. Launching right into “Black Wave,” she flailed her arms while running around the stage as everyone put their hands up to bob to the beat.

“How many people in the building consider themselves to be weird?” she asked, as the majority of the room cheered in agreement. “Water that shit, fertilize it. Let it grow, let it proliferate. That is the cure. That is your superpower,” she preached while picking up a bass for “Weirdo,” an Outside Verses track off last year’s Inside Voices/Outside Voices album.

Rotating around her extensive discography like a CD changer on shuffle, the ‘be yourself and stand up to the bullies’ anthem, “This Baby Don’t Cry” came next, with poppy and hoppy riffs and sugary sweetness in her vocals. Breaking into the collaboration part of the set, “T.G.I.F” (Which was with Tom Morello) and “Zen” (with X Ambassadors and grandson). The former featured a solo from guitarist Alex Foote, while K.Flay laid on the ground with her legs in the air. “When the beat drops, let go of whatever’s stressing you out,” she cried. The latter showcasing her effortlessly doing all three artist’s parts.

The warm and nostalgic, “Nothing Can Kill Us” was like a honeyed symphony, cooing memories and regrets and late-night love affairs, her falsetto ringing out like a chime. Treating the crowd to a live “world debut” of “In America,” off of her upcoming album Mono (due September 15th). “No one does it quite like us, in America” she repetitively cried while pacing back and forth to drive home the point of the state of the union with sarcasm and irony.

After the year K.Flay has had, she’s no doubt super proud of her fifth album, and gave a set loaded with live debuts of a handful of songs. Newest single “Shy” followed and brought the hand claps. Balancing out with an old favorite, “Blood in the Cut” had everyone grooving along before she spliced in a little more Morello, with “Bulls on Parade.”
“Portland, your energy is extremely, extremely good!” she yelled, during the kickoff show of her Northeast tour. “It’s coming up on the one year anniversary of not being able to hear out of my right ear. I’m a musician, I kind of need that..” She quipped, telling of the inspiration of Mono. “There is a future, and it does look different. And turns out, you only need one ear to do this shit!”

Slowing things down and changing it up, she sat down on the drum riser accompanied by Foote for a stripped back version of “Maybe There’s a Way.” Someone was holding up a request sign, which she acknowledged. And even though they weren’t planning on playing it, they broke into the fast tongued oldie “Can’t Sleep.”

Another newbie, “Punisher” followed, in a stompy rampage as she moshed alone on stage. “No body knows how to punish me like me,” she howled and acted out. Based on the previews alone, the album is an anticipated statement piece of perseverance.

The spiraling “Make Me Fade” had more of her lyrical agility intertwined with dreamy choruses that makes her stand out brightly. Including another teaser, she spit some verses of “Yes I’m Serious” at the end, which even though was unknown, the crowd watched mystified, knowing just how much talent she’s showcasing in her new tunes.
Probably one of the best alt singles of the year, “Raw Raw” started with its gritty and ominous bass line, leaving her sensitive and exposed and she thrashed around the stage before slowing it down for the sweet and gentle bridge. Slipping into the background, she let Foote and drummer Mike Robinson takeover for the instrumental, before ripping her heart out for the final chorus of “Raw.”

“It’s been a pleasure, a delight,” she said. “One last song, I mean it,” another supporter of death to the encore. And true to her word, “High Enough” ended the set with a full buzz, her rhythms dancing around one last time in ecstasy, before she faded away into the black.

Notable Opener: Hello Mary – A trio of girls with sleepy, dreamy melodies and haunting echoes of harmony. Both the guitarist and drummer take turns singing. Soundscape music that’s pretty and nostalgic.

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