A Night With Mahalia: IRL

With her third North American tour, IRL, reaching its end, it is time to declare UK RnB and Neo-soul artist Mahalia as the RnB artist Gen Z desperately needs.

On Saturday, March 23rd, Liminul attended Mahalia’s show at the Théâtre Beanfield in Montreal to see what the 2024 Best New Artist Brit Award Nominee was all about. Following the release of her second studio album, IRL, Mahalia’s performance on this tour did not just impress; it inspired.

Born into a family of musicians in Leicester, UK, Mahalia began learning instruments and songwriting in her early teen years. At just 13 years old, Mahalia signed with Asylum Records, and six years later in 2017, her Colors performance of her track, “Sober,” went viral, leading her to collaborations with celebrated artists such as Burna Boy, JoJo, Stormzy, Rico Nasty, and several other notable musicians.

Mahalia’s artistry is a love letter to her generation. A true RnB artist in a genre rumored to be past its golden age, Mahalia delivers melancholic narratives—perhaps melodramatic in the best way possible—of heartbreak and complicated love to the rhythm of smooth RnB melodies that transport you into a ‘crying-for-your-boo-in-the-rain’ type of love. Sprinkled with notable hints of Gen Z’s lighthearted humor and sarcasm to cope with the pains of heartache, Mahalia is contemporizing RnB for a new generation.

The show, held in the intimate and cozy Théâtre Beanfield concert hall, attracted both loyal Mahalia stans and newcomers-turned-believers invited by friends. Mahalia opens the show with “Ready” from her newest album IRL. She quickly follows it with the pulsing beat of “Simmer ft Burna Boy”, expressing how she hates when she attends concerts of her favorite artists and they only perform their newest songs.

As she sings, the crowd remains nearly still but far from stagnant. You can feel the tenderness rippling through the bodies packed in the pit and see hands clasped together in the balcony seats. Throughout her performance, Mahalia’s vocals remain steady and strong as she dances around the stage to upbeat songs such as “Terms and Conditions” and “I Wish I Missed My Ex”. She slows it down, sitting for “Hey Stranger” and bringing out a green guitar for “Grateful”. During her live rendition of “Grateful”, Mahalia remains center stage, guitar in hand, with lights shimmering along her blonde braids as the crowd softly and intentionally sings along, “I will be very, very grateful. Very, very grateful”.

This marks Mahalia’s third tour stop in Montreal. In 2022, she graced the stage at Osheaga, and before that, in 2019, she captivated the audience with her Love and Compromise tour.

Mahalia balances her live performances with smooth, vibrant vocals and sweet intimate chats with her audience – a quintessentially RnB artist that the melancholic hearts of Gen Z desperately need. It’s charming, the way her powerful vocals melt into a soft, giddy voice as she engages with her audience, coffee-with-friends style (literally bringing a peachy-colored mug of tea to sip between songs). She jumps up and down in her braless tube top, joyfully declaring “No matter what committee you’re in, you don’t need to wear a bra!” She proudly claims her single, IRL, as a song for the dreamers and the believers. Mid-concert, she shares a storytime about realizing she was a lovergirl after watching High School Musical with her dad and going to bed in tears because she was “never gonna marry Troy Bolton.” She laughs along with the audience as she proclaims her generation the “delulu generation”, since, as she says, we have a way of laughing at our own trauma.

As a performer, Mahalia demonstrates that connecting with her audience is paramount; creating unique and emotional experiences is second nature for the UK singer. She takes a short break from her set to fulfill song requests from the audience. Her shows are indelibly catered towards the experience. There is a need during her performances to offer more than just the songs themselves, but to also convey the purpose behind them and how they came to be, opening a window into her artistic process and life. 

Mahalia shares with the audience anecdotes about how an old boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend sparked the slightly petty “Letter to Your Ex” and she talks about the ‘boomerang boy’ who’d always swing back into her life with the opening line, “Hey stranger” (which inspired, you guessed it, “Hey Stranger”), playfully dishing about a cheating ex who got his other girl pregnant (which years later became the inspiration of the song, “Cheater”).  She quips to the audience that although it took years, putting the story into a song feels like it is no longer locked in her subconscious. “It’s here,” she says. “I’m wearing it for everyone to see”.

It is an authenticity easily recognized.

Exaucée and Maya met at the concert. They both arrived alone and found themselves standing near each other. “We had a moment during ‘Letter to My Ex’,” Exaucée shares. “I was crying, and Maya gave me a kiss on the cheek.”

“I love how she introduced every song,” attendee Thamie shares. It’s Thamie’s first time seeing Mahalia, unfamiliar with her music but invited by a friend. “She’s authentic.”

“This is our third time seeing her in Montreal. We see her every two years,” Carignia giggles with her partner of 6 years, Ralph. Both artists themselves, Carignia credits Mahalia as inspiration for some of her songs. “She makes me feel peace within myself.”

Kaya, Bibi, and Roro stay behind after the show ends. “I saw her in Toronto and she hasn’t changed. She’s still so amazing,” Bibi tells me.

, A Night With Mahalia: IRL, Liminul Magazine

This sentiment is truly what it feels like to witness Mahalia perform—a level of vulnerability and transparency that fosters an intimate connection in a room full of strangers. The show closes with “I Wish I Missed My Ex” and a final goodbye from the RnB princess.

With only the first quarter of 2024 completed, Mahalia has wrapped up a European tour, a North American tour, and is currently on her Australian tour. She recently added a new Brit Award nomination to her accolades, and if the past couple of months are any indication, the burgeoning pop star shows no signs of slowing down.



Photography: Hannah Verina White (@colourmyheart)


, A Night With Mahalia: IRL, Liminul MagazineHannah Verina White is a Montreal and Toronto-based writer. She has a deep love for the melodramatic and nostalgic, both of which influence the way she writes and the subjects she chooses to write about.