Kawehi does it her way in San Francisco


Native Hawaiian musician Kawehi’s I Am Eve Tour stopped off in San Francisco on Friday night. The multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter became a viral sensation with her inventive covers of classic records, such a Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” and Michael Jackson’s “The Way You’re Making Me Feel.” Her show at The Chapel was the third of six dates on the West Coast before she heads out to Salt Lake City, Denver, and then Europe.

Seeing her perform is at times like watching a wizard work magic; her loop machines and keyboards serving as her ornate staff from which she would cast spells. She was busy at the start of songs: pressing buttons, twisting knobs, and recording vocal layers. There would then be a shake of the head, her upper-body would roll with the beat, like a signal she was ready, before jumping out on vocals to complete the song. As complex as it sometimes looked, she tempered her concentration with a positive spirit as she crafted her music. The more Kawehi performed, it was hard not to get swept up in the excitement of it all.

Acoustic guitar tracks mid-set helped to keep things varied. Not forgetting her roots, she included a medley of covers with even featured a mini sing-a-long to Backstreet Boys‘ “I Want It That Way.”  It made for a playful, crowd-pleasing moment. However, it was her originals which hit home the strongest on the night. She smoothed “Anthem when performing it live, and delivered “Not Another Lame Fight Song  with ferociousness, the swearing enunciated for greatest impact. Playing for just over an hour, the set was varied and kept the audience guessing where she would go next. “Twenty Years, a song inspired by a couple celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary, provided another opportunity to change pace for a beautiful, poignant and stripped back song.

India based singer-songwriter Zoya opened the night. She also performed solo with a beautiful collection of songs.

Delivering solo performances can be a fraught with challenges. There is a risk of things becoming monotonous and uneventful. The music can begin to feel overly melancholic, or even lonely as the musician bounces between instruments doing it all own their own. This was not the case with Kawehi, she oozes a spirit of fun inclusiveness that makes her live performance somewhat addictive. The morning after the gig Kawehi posted a photo to Instagram; it was the crowd selfie which has become customary at gigs. In the caption, she spoke about her journey from playing to one person (her husband, Adam) in a bar, to filling out San Francisco’s Chapel. This character building journey many musicians go on shows in her performance because sometimes you have to learn how to hold the attention of one person before you can hold the attention of a few hundred.