Euphoria was the theme of the night, as a sold-out Festival Hall got its very first taste of El Paso teenager Khalid.
Backed by a very strong band (keys, guitar and drums) the setting wasn’t quite complete until the musician’s two dancers took the stage in their cheerleading uniforms. The singer/songwriter kicked off his set with album title track American Teen, dancers by his side and stars and stripes lighting up the video screens with unabashed patriotism. It wasn’t just the dancers cutting a rug though – the man himself had some tricks up his sleeve.
Like the themes of his album (break-ups, friends, unrequited love, boozed-up nights) Khalid’s set mirrored the emotional up and downs that most all teenagers experience. He apologized for the “sad af” Another Sad Love Song, before ramping the vibe back up with the bouncy 8Teen and highway cruiser Let’s Go. The most sombre moment came via Angels – a dedication to his very recently deceased friend Vince. The house lights blazed and every phone’s torch faced the stage as Khalid delivered a deeply emotive rendition of the track. Khalid followed these with the electrifying Cold Blooded followed and the wiled-out Winter, to get feet moving again,
While I thought there was some awkward stage presence between songs at this point, on reflection, Khalid’s goofiness kind of matches his aesthetic. Either way it’s undeniable that the crowd was lapping up every single second of it.
Marshmallow collaboration Silence followed and then Location, and for a second, the latter took me back to the first time I saw Chet Faker perform, and now I can’t escape the comparison in my mind – massive Built On Glass vibes, but maybe that’s just me.
The American Teen encored with two songs: the first, his Calvin Harris collaboration Rollin’, and finally, Young Dumb & Broke complete with sing-along chorus and confetti cannons.
Side note: As I write this I just found a piece of confetti in my hair, how is it still in there? Damn these curls.
American Teen is out now via Sony.