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keshi Takes Us To "Hell & Back" in Phoenix, AZ

By Kya Brogdon | 19 April, 2023

Arizona Financial Theatre - Phoenix, AZ (April 12, 2023)

keshi tour 2023
Image by Kya Brogdon

On the final leg of his Hell & Back tour, on-the-rise pop-R&B singer-songwriter keshi once again showed off his stellar vocals and incredible stage presence at Arizona Financial Theatre in downtown Phoenix.

“It feels like it hasn’t even been a year since I was just at this venue.” The awe in his voice was obvious as he recalled his time opening for Lany. “A year and a half ago I was opening, and now we’re here!” He doesn’t mention the fact that this is his second time back in Arizona in less than a year, and this time at a 5,000-capacity venue rather than at the 1,900-capacity Van Buren just down the road that he played at last June. As someone who saw him at that show, it’s something that’s on my mind. There’s something special about seeing an artist you love grow, and being able to tangibly feel that growth by seeing them perform at larger venues is a feeling like no other.

Although I’ve only been an avid listener of keshi’s for about a year and a half, he has quickly become one of my top artists (he was my number two on Spotify Wrapped last year). The Hell & Back setlist features a mix of keshi’s older songs with many of his newer tracks from his most recent album Gabriel.

keshi tour

As someone who is one of the biggest fans of his bandaids EP (unlike keshi himself, according to his Twitter), I was so happy to see three out of the five songs from that album on the set list, as well as multiple other songs from his older releases like always and skeletons. Though, to be honest, he could have played literally any collection of songs from his discography, and I would have been happy — his music is just that good.

He opened the show with his confidence-inducing track, “Get It,” bouncing around on stage and hyping up the crowd as we all moved to the beat. Getting to scream-sing along to my favorite line, “See me doing good, why you reaching? / Cause I got everything I ever needed” was just as fun this time as it was when I saw him back in June - it’s absolutely something that will never get old. Transitioning into “less of you,” the energy did not lessen despite the change in the melody’s pace. With a discography that has a heavy load of soft, emotional songs, it would be easy for the liveliness to dissipate and for the audience to calm down - but neither keshi nor the crowd let that happen. Even on the slower songs like “drunk” and “like i need u,” there were people dancing and singing along with their friends, waving their phone lights in the air and swaying to the beat.

There is a running TikTok trend about keshi’s wolfcut hairstyle and how it brings out a different side of him while performing. Even though it’s a joke, I think there is some truthfulness to this theory. While I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him perform at Head In The Clouds in 2021 and at the Van Buren in 2022, I have to say that this show is my favorite by far. keshi’s contagious energy fed off of him with members of the audience. You could feel a bundle of pure passion and spirit in the venue.

One of my absolute favorite things about keshi’s shows is the way he adlibs throughout his songs. His vocals are already stellar, but the vocal color he has when he sings live is just so stunning - I’m in desperate need of a keshi live album stat. My favorite example of this is probably from his performance of “i swear i’ll never leave again.” The vocal run he does on the bridge still sends shivers down my spine even just listening to it on video.

Throughout his set, keshi made sure to spread the crowd's love to his live band accompaniment, cheering them on as they each did a little solo stage showing off their skills. Hearing the songs live with a band brought out a new style to each of the tracks, highlighting the music and making it sound even richer. After almost every song, keshi continuously told the crowd how much he loved being here, and how thankful he was to be able to perform in front of us again.

All too soon, the show drew to a close. After a brief pause before the encore, keshi came back on stage shrouded in fog and a backlit spotlight, giving him a holo-like appearance. In an unexpected twist (at least, according to the setlist information I personally had) he started singing “Gabriel,” one of my top favorite songs to hear live across any artist. I still think about hearing him sing it back when I saw him back in June, and to be able to hear it again in a bigger venue with a bigger crowd was such a special moment to me. The crowd fell silent when he stood in front of the mic, waiting to hear the beauty of his live vocals and then continued to stay quiet in order to fully enjoy the moment— only to erupt in shouts and screams as soon as his last note echoed throughout the building. It was truly a cinematic moment.

Ending the show with his crowd pleaser, “2 soon,” everyone jumped and danced to the beat as we spent our final moments of a perfect night, singing along to the words and showering keshi in cheers and applause.

As the confetti fell and the lights came up, I was left in awe at how powerful and incredible it is to see keshi live. There are just some artists out there that are meant to be listened to from a stage, and keshi is easily one of them. I truly can’t wait for my next opportunity to see him again.


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