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Tori Kelly brings new gospel sound to Philly

Tori Kelly tries at gospel at Temple

Tori Kelly performs at the Prince Tribute Concert at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016.
Tori Kelly performs at the Prince Tribute Concert at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016.Read moreRenee Jones Schneider

Tori Kelly didn't have expectations for her Saturday night show in Philadelphia. In fact, she wasn't always sure if it would even happen.

Kelly's latest album, Hiding Place is a gospel album, a departure from the R&B and pop sound she's known for and a self-described "passion project." She told the crowd that as she prepared to release the album, she was unsure if its reception would warrant a tour.

"I just wanted to put it out because it was on my heart," Kelly said. "I had no expectations for this."

The 1200 seat Temple Performing Arts Center was full of enthusiastic and impressively loud fans Saturday night though, many of whom seemed to be fans of not only Kelly herself, but gospel as a genre.

"Take us to church Tori," one concertgoer yelled.

Kelly was upfront about her own faith as she spoke to the crowd Saturday night: "You will find out sooner or later that I'm a Jesus lover. Clap for him, not for me." She called the show a "safe space" for all religions and backgrounds.

Nearly half of Kelly's nearly two hour long set was comprised of songs off Hiding Place." She co-produced the album with gospel musician Kirk Franklin, whose name drew cheers from the crowd as she spoke of their friendship.

Kelly also gave ample time to some of her older songs including those that earned her radio play ("Nobody Love" and "Should've Been Us")  and fan favorites ("Dear No One" and "Unbreakable Smile").

Throughout her set, Kelly stayed mostly in place at center stage, leaving the visual entertainment to three lively backup vocalists. She made up for it, though, vocally, displaying a powerful vocal range through a series of big  notes and vocal runs. At one point, she exhibited a surprisingly good rapping ability as she performed her song "Masterpiece."

The night's most impressive point came at the end as Kelly returned to the stage along with her backup vocalists for her encore. Seated at center stage, they delivered a skin-shivering a capella version of Kelly's song "Soul's Anthem (It is Well)," that drew applause not only from the crowd but from her own band members.

When she finally managed to quiet the crowd, a humble Kelly was quick to deflect the praise: "They just killed it."

But whether she'll admit it or not, she killed it too.