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Live Review: Ella Mai @ O2 Ritz, Manchester, 09/01/19


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There is just something so refreshing about British R&B singer Ella Mai, and as she struts on stage to a sold-out O2 Ritz and a sea of mobile phones, she leaves little to be desired.

Image Credit: Jonathan Mannion

This is the London-born star’s first ever headline tour, but you honestly wouldn’t know. Mai is a natural on stage and fabulous at interacting with her fans, repeatedly thanking them for their ongoing support: “It feels great to be back,” she grins. The singer has been taking the US by storm over the last year but has been relatively overlooked in the UK charts. She appears authentic and genuinely grateful, which goes down very well with fans.

That’s not to say she has a small fan base here in the UK, in fact, quite the opposite. The room is visibly packed and brimming with energy that doesn’t seem to fade at all throughout her hour-long set.

Dancing in a pink and blue lit haze, Mai kicks off the night with lesser-known tracks 'Good Bad, Dangerous' and 'Sauce' before pausing for an interlude seven songs in. 

After bursting into the mainstream music scene with her 2018 hit ‘Boo’d up’, Mai planted herself into every R&B lover's Spotify playlist. Although many critics were quick to judge, labelling her as just another one hit wonder, Mai defied the odds and stuck around, releasing her successful debut self-titled album back in October. Fast forward to Wednesday night at Manchester’s O2 Ritz, bursting with both awe and pride, Mai is quick to remind the crowd that she’s “still here” - a loud and proud statement that is met with a roar of applause. 

By now, fans are eager to hear the song that launched Mai into stardom - “There was one song that changed my life”, Mai teases. The crowd erupts with the ecstasy and anticipation of knowing what’s coming next: 'Boo’d Up'. The show instantly climaxes with what feels like every fan in the room singing along to the smooth and lustful lyrics of the 90s inspired track. 

As the pace of the set slows down, the singer plays the intimate, acoustic track 'Naked'. Her voice is drowned out by the hundreds of fans swaying and singing along to the stripped back melody of Mai asking to find someone who can “love her naked”. Mai regularly holds the mic out to the crowd, encouraging them to carry on singing, tapping into the togetherness of everyone, all sharing a mutual love for her vintage vibe. 

The show promptly closes with the popular hit 'Trip', a far cry from the slow, relaxed beat of 'Naked'. The song goes down a storm; everyone is dancing amongst in a hazy euphoria and goes home feeling they've had the satisfying ending to the night they deserved.

After a round of sold-out shows across the UK, there is no doubt that it won’t be long until the singer is also celebrated in the charts on this side of the Atlantic. 

Ella Mai's European tour ends on 22nd January in Stockholm. See all the dates here.

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