With his stunning debut album American Teen already under his belt and a live performance that sits at a standard some seasoned performers work their entire careers to achieve, the American teen is nothing short of brilliant.
On this particular evening, he looked set to make the iconic Festival Hall all his own. The crowd was made up largely of Khalid’s peers; those in their late teens who are personified in the lyrics of his songs. There was excitement and anticipation in the air. Soon enough the stage lit up; red white and blue visions of patriotism formed the backdrop.
Khalid and band were joined on stage by two dancers, their cheerleader uniforms completing the young-American aesthetic as the singer launched into his first song. ‘American Teen’ was loving, free and oddly nostalgic despite its contemporary references and relevance. It set the mood for the night. The “sad as fuck” ‘Another Sad Love Song’ provided an early peak in the set, lighting the room up with colour and movement. ‘8TEEN’ soon followed and this was where Khalid’s own dance moves were on full display. He crossed the stage with effervescent fluidity and the audience followed suit, transforming into a bustling sea of bodies. ‘Saved’ was a soft, lulling interlude. Emotive and expressive, it showcased Khalid’s songwriting and his pristine voice.
There was a pause in the set when Khalid killed the music to address some less than impressive crowd behaviour. The show quickly moved on after the singer put the individual in their place. He launched into ‘Cold Blooded’ and ‘Shot Down’ with (if at all possible) even more determination following the disruption.
Slowing things down when he took a seat in the centre of the stage, Khalid dedicated ‘Angels’ to a recently passed friend, Vince. Suddenly, Festival Hall was lit up with the torches of thousands of phones. The bittersweet rendering of the song sent chills down the spine of everyone in the room.
It was ‘Silence’, Khalid’s collaboration with friend Marshmello, that picked the pace back up. Played towards the end of the set, it was nothing short of anthemic from the drop of the very first note. The crowd, bathed in beams of white light, erupted eagerly. A choir of thousands assists the singer on stage and there was an aura of euphoric togetherness as the song whipped around the venue.
Khalid introduced ‘Location’ as the song that he says changed his life forever. It was no overstatement, as it’s the track that thrust him right into the global music spotlight and deservedly so. From the first glitchy, glittery note, the song filled the entire venue. There was a new found energy within the audience, as if everything has been building up to this. The main set was wrapped up here, with the crowd essentially singing the song for him. He slinked from the stage briefly before returning for an encore.
‘Young Dumb and Broke’ rounded out the night, a perfect melodic note to end on. Rolling beats, dancing, a swaying crowd singing along with as much conviction as the performer on stage – the song encapsulated the entire performance in one crystalised moment. It left the room buzzing, but not before canons rained pieces of red, white and blue confetti down on the audience.
Khalid has a pure, joyful energy and that happiness permeated through his live performance regardless of lyrical content or circumstance. The clarity of his voice and the way he is so effortlessly comfortable and personable on stage is nothing short of a delight to behold. Seeing Khalid on his first Australian tour was a privilege not lost on his audience, who he left even more adoring than they were before he’d taken the stage just over an hour before. If that’s even possible.
Highlight: The dance moves – both Khalid’s and those of his cheerleading back-up dancers.
Lowlight: The rude af person right down the front who caused the show to stop for a min.
Crowd favourite: ‘Silence’.