REVIEW: Elle King at Summerfest

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Frankly, Elle King’s set at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse on Friday night was a bit of a wild card going into the night. On paper, King has two successful radio singles; the recently released “America’s Sweetheart”, and the singalong-worthy hit “Ex’s and Oh’s”. What she delivered, however, was the performance of a star way beyond an artist with only two singles on mainstream radio. Her set was nothing short of captivating, and she had the crowd at the Roadhouse in the palm of her hand all night.

King’s personality was brash, unapologetic and quite confident, as she sang about being a “Chain Smokin’ Hard Drinking Woman”. Decked out in white, with about a small bottle’s worth of gold glitter covering her face and neck, she told stories about the only time she’s ever been dumped, and how men and women were equal… “both are equally awful groups of people”. That sort of confidence was reflected in her performance, too; to say she commanded the stage would be an understatement. Most importantly, King looked to be genuinely having fun on stage, which is something that can’t be said for all performers.

Musically, King and her band had the chops to have a little bit of swagger about themselves. The band played tracks from King’s debut album “Love Stuff”, along with a fun cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and a very stellar version of The Beatles’ “Oh Darling”. With a blend of rock, pop, country, blues, and just about any other genre, it seemed like King could do no wrong. She even fit in a verse of Sister Nancy’s reggae hit “Bam Bam” during a song, and it somehow worked. Her encore consisted of a mash up of Nick Jonas’ hit “Jealous” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”, because King said they didn’t know what else to play. However, they left single “America’s Sweetheart” on the shelf, but if you asked King about it, she likely wouldn’t care.

At Elle King’s stage of her career, it would have been acceptable to turn out a somewhat underwhelming performance, given that she really only has one album and an EP from 2012 under her belt. Instead, she delivered over an hour of music, with the poise and style of a certified star, and it wouldn’t be far fetched to believe that with another hit or two, King won’t be headlining ground stages much longer; she’ll be playing the Marcus Ampitheater as a headliner. The large crowd that she drew at the Roadhouse was an indicator that she has that attraction about her, and her show likely solidified the majority of fans that were on the fence. Elle King is a star, and on Friday night, she showed that.