Concert Review: HEARTFIRST Tour- Kelsea Ballerini- Highland, CA
Photo: Kelsea Ballerini via Twitter
Kelsea Ballerini commands a stage in a special way that makes her show seem like the most magical place on earth while simultaneously feeling like an intimate hangout with an old friend. With the HEARTFIRST tour, Ballerini puts on a performance that will be remembered by fans for decades. I had the honor and privilege of attending the Highland, California date for the third and final leg of the tour. Additionally, I also had the opportunity to attend the Los Angeles show during the first leg of the tour back in October 2022. Attending both shows at different venues, along with slightly altered setlists, allowed me to experience the tour in a unique way and fall in love with Ballerini all over again. Being a fan since 2015, I have lost count on the number of times I have seen her live. I have seen her as the headliner at multiple shows, an opener for artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Keith Urban, and the Jonas Brothers, and even at a private event in 2017 for the ACM Sessions series. After all these years and all these shows, I will never tire of seeing Ballerini perform. Her dedication and passion are what make her one of my top favorite artists to see live. She consistently puts on an energetic performance while engaging with the crowd and showcasing her humorous and lighthearted personality. At every single show, she emphasizes to her fans that her concerts are a safe space for them, regardless of gender identity, sexuality, or race. She makes every single person in the crowd feel love and accepted, even if they never even met her. As she wears her heart on her sleeve, she invites the audience to do the same and she emits a ray of sunshine so bright that you cannot help but feel joy in her presence. If you have never seen Ballerini live, this is your formal invitation to seek out tickets so you can finally see what you have been missing!
Although Ballerini is primarily country, she blends the sounds of pop, rock, and R&B. There is a song for everyone, no matter what their taste is. Earlier this year, she released a six-track EP, Rolling Up the Welcome Mat, that perfectly showcases her genre-blending style. Four out of six of these songs made it on the permanent setlist, which made the difference between the first leg and the third leg. “Interlude” and “Blindside” are her two most pop and R&B influenced tracks and my favorite performances of the show. Perhaps that may be biased because they are also my favorite songs on the EP, but I was so excited to hear these songs live. Each track on the EP brings an insight into her once private divorce that has since become a public spectacle. After baseless rumors and petty gossip, Ballerini decided to take matters into her own hands and tell her side of the story, making this her most vulnerable project to date. Going into the show, I knew these songs were going to be tear-jerkers and I came prepared to cry. You could feel Ballerini’s gratitude and love when the audience would scream these delicate words back at her, letting the singer know that we love her and support her.
After Ballerini “ended” the show with “I GUESS IT CALL IT FALLIN’”, she returned for an encore that took fans on the most heart-wrenching, emotional journey of the entire show. Even after singing “Interlude,” “Blindside,” and “Mountain With a View,” all which are from her emotional EP, Ballerini really hit us in the feels when she came back to sing “Penthouse.” The vulnerable song, much like the others on the project, cut deep and reveal what led up to the ending of her marriage and the immense pain she has endured. But similar to how Ballerini’s songs support her fans through their hardships, the audience returns the favor by giving her the reassurance that we love her no matter what. One crucial line in the song goes: “But now I don’t know where you’re sleeping, baby.” However, Ballerini has taken this line and twisted it into what is called "the healed version." Instead, she sings, “And I don’t care where you’re sleeping, baby!” bringing emphasis to her mended heart. Now, fans take this line and scream it back as loud as possible, showing the singer that we are proud of how strong she is and that we have her back. It is a sweet moment that is bound to give every single audience member, especially myself, full body chills and uncontrollable tears.
Ballerini was made for the stage. Not only does she have a compelling stage presence that mesmerizes every single person in the room, she has the voice of an angel and the stamina of a marathon runner. She hits each note flawlessly and has an unbelievable breath control that can top even some of the most famous superstars. Her voice sounds exactly the same as it does recorded, yet she includes new vocal riffs and key changes that showcase her unique range and her undeniable talent. Not only does she sing and dance, but she interacts with fans and even ran through the crowd to sing on a B-Stage. At this show, she allowed a random fan to come on stage and sing with her, signed her name for two fans so they can get it tattooed on themselves, and read aloud many signs. With multiple outfit changes and beautiful background images, the show has a captivating aesthetic that makes it impossible to look away. She makes the show unique each night and turns the stage into a casual hangout spot. Her relationship with her fans is a special kind of love. It is obvious that we mean as much to her, as she does to us. Ballerini deserves more recognition by the country music community and the music industry as a whole. Hopefully after her nearly completely sold-out tour, she will finally get the recognition and praise that she deserves. She only just started the final leg of this tour, so check out her socials and website to see if she is stopping at a city near you!
Written By Karlee Skipper
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