Live review from Playful Palooza:
Keisha Buckland & Band
2. Darling Carolina
4. Cut the source
6. Feather by Sabrina Carpenter (cover)
7. What If
Opening The Underground’s programme at the AIA Carnival was 17-year-old Keisha Buckland, a singer who brought warmth and personality to the harbourfront with her band of friends and powerful songs.
Chris B was “bowled away” by Keisha when she performed solo at a Shazza night and rightly placed her onto an Underground bill without delay. In a sea of one-dimensional pop rock, Keisha stands out in the range of her musical palette and ability to capture an audience’s attention with her earnest stage presence and emotionally articulate open-diary lyrics.
Her smooth, mellow voice was introduced on opening song Hindsight, which combined softly strummed guitar with candid lyrics and led into Darling Carolina’s catchy chorus. She dealt with heavy subject matter with maturity: lyrics like “I like when you demean me” and “Board that train and let it take me away” on the captivating Locomotive spoke to a darker side of relationships and longing.
The band, though displaying great chemistry and camaraderie on stage, would slip in and out of time, and the pitch and strength of Keisha’s voice wavered, especially during the first half of the set while her confidence was still growing. Nevertheless, the audience was encouraging, and the upbeat nature of the songs and dynamism of Keisha as a figure onstage drew people away from the carnival games and held them rapt throughout the seven song set.
Cut The Source, “a song about having a best friend”, performed solo by Keisha, paired self-observational second-person lyrics, telling an unnamed interlocutor “he’s not worth the price of therapy” and “maybe it’s time to cut to the hours of tearing your hair out”. It wasn’t clear who she was speaking to, which made it interesting to ponder whether she was addressing her younger self.
The full band returned for Ammonite, which paired a simple bassline with a clean, down-strummed guitar. It sounded the least rehearsed and fleshed out of the tunes; a slight bald patch in a mostly richly crafted set, but represented only a momentary blip before the players knitted back into a rhythm again.
On closer What If, Keisha sang “What if all of a sudden we were the only two on earth? What if I was the person you could turn to if you got hurt?” For audience members, the lyrics were relatable: everyone at some point in their life has been left scratching their heads trying to figure out what the opposite sex is thinking and wondering why the path to love isn’t always easy.
A breezy cover of Sabrina Carpenter’s Feather (Keisha’s number one track on Spotify Wrapped) stood out for how confidently it was performed. Spoken sections were delivered with charisma, recalling Taylor Swift’s listener-addressing cutaways. Swift and Olivia Rodrigo would be natural comparisons to make to Keisha, but Fleetwood Mac or Carol King wouldn’t be overstated references either: it was clear Keisha has absorbed music from a range of different eras and genres and emerged with her own, very personal style. Her future stage appearances will be unmissable as she continues on her musical journey and continues to grow as an exciting new voice on the Hong Kong scene