Being a small-time opening act is never an easy deal. Sure, you get to perform with the big boys, have a much larger crowd than you draw yourself and get exposed to a new audience.
On the other side, you have to entertain a stadium of people who don’t care, are still getting seated and just want the main show to start. The trick is to hook them in and force them to want you to perform.
As the opening act for Tuesday’s concert, that’s exactly what Kelley James did.
His rap/sing style is reminiscent of a more guitar-driven Jason Mraz, and though he said he has been on tour with Mike Posner for awhile, their styles don’t necessarily mesh.
He started off his set slowly yet strong, the most talented performer on the night. During “Six Bottles of Beer” he called out to the audience for a female volunteer, and a girl came toward the stage. She had to give him two different words (flabbergasted and cottage cheese,) which then evolved into a long and hilarious freestyle rap from James.
From there even without knowing his songs, the audience was hooked. To keep them, he made sure to give plenty of Chicago and Peoria shout-outs.
James also covered Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You” to a surprisingly high level of success, with a brief moment in the middle to rap some of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.” At this point, the audience was as into it as possible for a little-known opener.
His final song was called “Stalker,” dedicated to those who know a little too much about another, though James was sure to point out that it’s perfectly normal.
Again, he called out for another audience member – this time a guy. The word the guy gave was “crusher,” his alleged nickname. While this freestyle rap gimmick could get old at the hands of anyone else, James’ creativity and humor kept it fresh.
By the time the set ended, he had the crowd pumped for the show to start and left with more fans than he came in with.
As an opening act, you can’t ask for more.