Opening with her song “Giver,” K.Flay prepared the audience for what felt like a cryptic act. Kristine Flaherty, known by her stage name K.Flay, opened for Imagine Dragons on Nov. 2, and it felt like a great fit. Her harsh tone pairs nicely with theirs and her lyrics are thoughtful too. Like Imagine Dragons, K.Flay’s brassy style wouldn’t pair all too well with any love songs.
On stage, just a drummer and a guitarist backed as K.Flay sang over pre-recorded synth melodies and arcane red lights. The lights seemed to be putting on a unique show too. I almost felt bad for K.Flay at the beginning of her set — it was clear there was a lot of thought put into the colors of her set design, but the 20,000-capacity venue wasn’t nearly half full. She didn’t seem to mind though, thanking the audience for coming early. After an aggressive, strobe light heavy performance of “Black Wave,” the onstage band slowed it down with “Make Me Fade.”
I really loved K.Flay’s onstage presence. Her lyrics were as dark as her black jumpsuit, but her personality shined as bright as her name bedazzled on the back. K.Flay danced around the stage, on top of sound monitors and amps, and interacted with fans in the pit. As the venue filled up, fans clearly did not know who K.Flay was, but they seemed to be captured by her on-stage charm.
As the next song, “Dreamers,” was played, I found myself wishing for a complete band on stage. The song itself is so full-bodied. The catchy chorus had K.Flay chanting, “I want more,” but I felt exactly the same — the song is so great but I just found myself wanting to hear more live sounds from on stage than the pre-recorded synth.
K.Flay shared that Philadelphia is one of her favorite places to play. She explained that some things make you feel good, like “peppers on your cheesesteak” or climbing the art museum steps a la “Rocky.” I don’t know if this monologue was improvised or scripted, but I really felt that K.Flay won over the already captivated audience by explaining how her next song, “High Enough” is about feeling good. She told her audience to hug and kiss the people they came with because that was all you’d need to feel good.
“Blood in the Cut” is without a doubt K.Flay’s most popular song so it’s no wonder that she saved it for last. Anybody who knows me knows that I absolutely abhor censorship in artwork, and it drove me crazy that K.Flay altered her lyric “he’s probably f—— her right now” to “he’s probably up with her right now.” The irony is, that line will also be censored here in print, but hey, I would be surprised if this sentence even makes it into the final piece. Despite her censorship, she really nailed this song and had the audience vibing along with her. I’d never seen an audience connect so much with an opener without really knowing her.
K.Flay was the perfect opener for Imagine Dragons. The next opener, not so much. If you know me, you know that “Tongue Tied” by Grouplove is my anthem. I absolutely love Grouplove, but don’t understand how an indie-pop band with goofy, sometimes meaningless lyrics can open for a band like Imagine Dragons. While Grouplove was truly stellar in their own way, I kept reflecting on K.Flay’s unique style and passion. The Philadelphia crowd gladly welcomed her back onto stage as she performed a verse with Imagine Dragons during their phenomenal set.