REVIEW: Kali Uchis is ‘just a stranger’ on stage

Kali Uchis’ 23-show tour is her second, and supports her debut studio album “Isolation.” (Tomás Mier | Daily Trojan)

Nearly five months after the release of her debut album “Isolation,” Kali Uchis is still searching for her voice and identity as a young artist. On Friday night, the Colombian American singer performed at Shrine Expo Hall, a venue she filled with fans but not with her presence.

To open the show, singer-songwriter Gabriel Garzón-Montano performed a medley of tracks that fit Uchis’ aesthetic as a performer — replete with sensual dancing and hearty vocals — but ultimately failed to keep the crowd energized. Following a 40-minute recess during which the audience became visibly restless, Uchis finally took the stage to rampant cheers and chants of her name.

Accompanied by a flood of neon light, she launched into the opening notes of “Dead to Me,” one of the standout performances of the night. After opening with her strongest songs, “Tomorrow” and “Never Be Yours,” the remainder of Uchis’ set paled in comparison.

Other high points came when she surprised her mostly Latinx crowd with a cover of hit Mexican song “Todos Me Miran,” a livelier and more upbeat track than her typical discography, and “Nuestro Planeta,” the sole Spanish-only track on her album.

Uchis admitted to the audience between songs: “For me personally, I’m just kind of an introverted person, I don’t like to talk to a lot of people.”

This self-proclaimed timidness showed in her performance, as her interactions with the crowd were limited beyond a few obligatory remarks to express her gratitude. With her form-fitting leather skirt and bralette adorned with silver chains and bold makeup, there’s no denying Uchis’ visual presence. However, she falls flat in her ability to command the room as a performer.

To her credit, Uchis is a newcomer to the music scene and had only headlined one tour before “Isolation.” But her inexperience as a performer was evident on Friday night as her dance moves — consisting primarily of spins, shimmies and hip sways — quickly became repetitive and tired. The set would have benefited from more visually engaging movement on Uchis’ part or the addition of back up dancers.

Regardless, the crowd adored Uchis as she performed her biggest hits, “Tyrant” and “After The Storm,” two tracks that would have served better as finales to her already-short set. Her powerful vocals and hypnotic sound remained captivating even though she failed to showcase her personality onstage. In fact, Uchis had the entire audience chanting for an encore, although she did not oblige.

Despite her flat performance, the crowd’s consistently high energy and fervor was a testament to the strength of her fanbase. Hopefully, with time and practice, what Uchis is capable of doing in the studio will also come to fruition on stage.