Mahalia Is Honest, Bold, And A Joy To Watch On The ‘In Real Life’ Tour

Four years, at least two relationships, and a global pandemic. That’s just a few of the things that Mahalia went through between the release of her debut and sophomore albums. At its end, the world received IRL (In Real Life). The 13-song album, released in the summer of 2023, boldly declared the new independence that now rules her life. IRL bears the honesty that you can only appreciate from an artist putting their art into the world to be perceived and reacted to. Mahalia accepts the value of vulnerability and employs it in her music to let her audience know that her f*ck-ups are just like ours. Fame doesn’t make it any easier or better and the task of recovering from them is just as tall.

St. Patrick’s Day marked not only a national holiday that injects more green (and alcohol) into a room than a Boston Celtics game at TD Garden, but also the New York stop for Mahalia’s In Real Life North American Tour. On stage at Manhattan’s Irving Plaza, Mahalia joked about using the holiday to her advantage. “It’s St. Patrick’s Day so half of you are drunk anyway,” she said joking about the comfort she has in detailing her f*ck-ups through a number of the songs she performed. Before that came the promise to perform records from IRL and her 2019 debut Love & Compromise rather than producing a setlist that leans heavily on the most recent body of work as artists tend to do on a tour that follows an album.

The In Real Life Tour proves that Mahalia is an entertainer by all standards. Her stellar live vocals and choice of songs would’ve made for a great show by themselves, but the addition of her charisma and cheeky commentary with the audience added to the night by offering a wave of comfort rarely felt at concerts. Think of the energy that’s felt during a kickback with friends, except this time it’s a sold-out audience at Irving Plaza. Where artists who truly put on a show may use dancers as companions to their performance to captivate an audience, Mahalia opted for a simpler element: humor. She introduced songs with personal anecdotes told with a comedic spin that effortlessly won the audience over. It added more context and flair to her performances and left the crowd wanting to hear more from Mahalia – in terms of both her music and her stories.

Before singing “Plastic Plants,” Mahalia recalled a moment when her father was left to console a crying young Mahalia after they both watched High School Musical because she was sure she’d “never find a husband like Troy Bolton.” The memory also came after she admitted that America’s “f*cked up movies” about love have ironically inspired a number of her records. Later on in the night, she crowned herself a romantic and unproblematic girl. She then theorized that in order to be unproblematic, you must first be problematic, a conclusion that earned a laugh from the crowd moments before she worked into a glimmering performance of “Letter To Ur Ex.” Pairing her problematic theory with “Letter To Ur Ex” was perfect as the song is one Mahalia wrote after a fight between her and her partner sparked by the latter receiving a text from their ex. “You think you know all about me, huh?” Mahalia sings on the record. “You’ve never been me, but I’ve been you, girl.” Like Mahalia said, to be unproblematic, you must first be problematic.

With that being said, it wasn’t only jokes for Mahalia at Irving Plaza. A performance of “Isn’t It Strange?” is introduced with its backstory of Mahalia’s early struggles with finding a middle ground in her artistry between her small city roots in her hometown of Leister and her big city experience with her current time in Los Angeles. She tells the audience about creative struggles at one point in her career and how “In My Bag” helped her get out of it before singing it. She later confesses to being cheated on at 17 and how she wrongfully believed she could hurdle its effects. It led to a rendition of “Cheat” which was accompanied by the admission that being cheated on brought on more damage than she initially believed, leaving her to find a way to recover from the traumatic experience. This honesty seemed to be the theme of the night as Mahalia’s opener, Montreal singer Alicia Creti, also shined through her set with a story of heartbreak and self-discovery supported by songs from her recently released Self/Less EP. By the end of the night, through stories of tragedy and comedy, both Mahalia and Alicia allowed the audience to appreciate them more both for their music and for the humans that created them simply by being vulnerable with their fans.

The storytelling element, and the charisma that came with it, are really what stuck with me by the end of her performance at Irving Plaza. There were no doubts about Mahalia’s live singing abilities, and despite that, she continuously earned roars from the crowd as she belted out the lyrics to records like “Do Not Disturb” and “Cheat.” The applause was just as loud as she performed fan favorites like “Grateful,” “Terms & Conditions,” and “I Wish I Missed My Ex.” Mahalia was honest, bold, and fun for her New York stop on the In Real Life North American Tour. Her latest era produced a singer more comfortable in her skin, her past downfalls, and a story that isn’t the prettiest from start to finish. It was a joy to watch the artist who combined those things in a way that benefitted her the most and made for a night to remember.

IRL is out now via Atlantic Records. Find out more information here.