13 Nov 2017

REVIEW: Khalid at Spark Arena

From RNZ Music, 9:35 am on 13 November 2017
Khalid at Spark Arena

Khalid at Spark Arena Photo: Rach

New Zealand loves Khalid. Like, really loves him. When the R&B singer announced his show in August, at the respectably-sized venue of the Auckland Town Hall, it sold out in no time and had to be moved to Spark Arena.

The adoration was felt – and heard – at last night’s concert, with the audience belting out lyrics, often drowning Khalid out. It was the loudest crowd I've heard at a pop concert in recent memory. 

The 19-year-old noticed this too, saying “This is the hypest crowd I’ve ever performed for!”

Opening with ‘American Teen’ in front of a pixelated American flag, two dancers dressed as cheerleaders either side of Khalid added to the faux-patriotism (after all, who could genuinely say with a straight face they are proud to be an American teen in Trump’s era?).

Khalid at Spark Arena

Khalid at Spark Arena Photo: Rachael Louise

The dancers remained throughout the set but their style of dancing felt slightly out of step with his fresh, pop-leaning vibe.

He was a great performer on his own, anyway, often punctuating songs with a high kick and skipping back and forth across the stage - his joy at the crowd’s reaction was evident.

From ‘American Teen’, he played two of his album highlights, ‘Another Sad Love Song’ and ‘8Teen’. In ‘8Teen’, a song Khalid wrote with Joel Little, he sings of living at home and falling in love for the first time.

Like the similarly mononymed and official Queen of the Teens, Lorde, Khalid explores themes of growing up in a small town, of friendships and young love and the technology used to navigate them.

His lyrics deftly create a sense of nostalgia for former teens such as myself, while so cleverly singing to the experiences of his peers who dominated the crowd at Spark.

He pulled things back in the middle of his set, playing a few of his ballads including ‘Hopeless’, ‘Coaster’, and ‘Angels’, which he dedicated to a friend who died last week.

He brought the vibe back up with ‘Silence’, his song with EDM producer Marshmello. Someone's hoodie flew into the air at the drop.

Khalid closed the show with ‘Young, Dumb and Broke’, a single that went to #1 here, his first-ever chart-topper.

With lyrics about "young dumb broke high school kids" who "still got love to give", it’s his version of Lorde’s "I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh…".

Closing a sell-out show with a #1 single, to a crowd singing louder that he was, at an upgraded venue, there was no doubt, as he sings in ‘American Teen’, that this has been Khalid’s year.

Khalid at Spark Arena

Khalid at Spark Arena Photo: Rachael Louise

Khalid at Spark Arena

Khalid at Spark Arena Photo: Rachael Louise

Khalid at Spark Arena

Khalid at Spark Arena Photo: Rachael Louise

Khalid at Spark Arena

Khalid at Spark Arena Photo: Rachael Louise

Khalid at Spark Arena

Khalid at Spark Arena Photo: Rachael Louise

Khalid at Spark Arena

Khalid at Spark Arena Photo: Rachael Louise