Khalid and his first ever Australian show proved he is the future
It’s rare that an artist comes along that can be described as a “voice of a generation,” which might be for the better. Not only is it mind-blowingly oversimplifying to personify an entire generation of people with a single artist, but it’s also a lot of pressure to put on someone. With that phrase comes the expectation that you’ll continue to represent these people as your career progresses, but also gives you a level of accountability for their collective mistakes. Being the voice of a generation is an awful lot to handle, but it’s undeniable that, for the Instagram-raised kids of today, KHALID is indisputably that voice and there’s no one better suited for the job.
It took one look at the vastly adolescent crowd of his first of two sold out Hordern Pavilion shows in Sydney to see just how much his voice resonates with so many teenagers across the globe. An all-ages concert is the only route he could’ve taken. His debut album, American Teen – a commercial and critical gargantuan – discussed beautifully and freely about Khalid’s life as a high schooler in El Paso, Texas. Where other artists like Lorde (who Khalid actually supported on her European tour) opted to cover the minimalist mundaneness and the beautifully insignificant moments of teenage life with her debut record Pure Heroine back in 2013, American Teen was larger than life. It unashamedly romanticised a teenage fever dream to older generations that just wouldn’t understand – they’ve been teens before, but not in the digital age and that makes all the difference.
That being said, it’s no wonder Khalid pegged 14-year-old wunderkind RUEL as his support artist. With a silky smooth voice well beyond his years, Ruel captivated early birds with his brooding vocals and soaring synths that reached every last nook and cranny of the colossal venue. With such a fresh face concealing what can only be a creative mind with gears turning non-stop, Ruel proved that just because he has school tomorrow, it doesn’t necessarily mean that his colossal tune, ‘Don’t Tell Me’, isn’t going to absolutely tear the place down before the main event.
To say that the main event delivered would be a severe and heinous understatement. Jumping out with his shirt tucked in and a wide, gleaming smile from ear-to-ear, Khalid was welcomed on to the stage with absolute chaos. The screams and roars from the crowd were deafening, and Khalid wore a look of surprise and humility across his face as he kicked off his first Australian show. Opening with the title track from his record, the crowd was already flooded with people on shoulders and the euphoric echo of the audience to Khalid’s stunning vocal delivery. As two cheerleaders pranced out, pigtails and pom poms at the ready, we could feel that this was going to be the quintessential American teen experience.
As Khalid danced and bopped his way through some of the standouts of his record, like ‘Let’s Go’ and ‘8TEEN’, not once did it seem like his energy was low. In fact, he was feeding off the tangible electricity in the room. Even in the more sombre moments like ‘Another Sad Love Song’ or the incredibly touching performance of ‘Angels’ – who he dedicated to his friend who passed away in a motorcycle accident just last week – there was a symbiotic connection. The crowd knew when to scream and they knew when to hush. Khalid knew when to make open connections with audience members and knew when to act like he was the only one in the room. It was something marvellous to behold; this sort of telepathy and mutual understanding between members of a generation who believe that no one else understands them. It’s a connection that might go unnoticed, but once you spot it, it will change the way you look upon the age group who is all too often looked over.
Khalid also managed to sneak a few of his infectious collaborations in his set too, starting with the omnipresent banger, ‘Silence’, produced by Marshmello. The EDM-soaked tune rattled the floor as we took a break from the mellow RnB we’re used to and were able to just let loose. But, it’s the Calvin Harris collab ‘Rollin’ where Khalid truly stands out in a pack. Full credit to Harris for producing such an understated melody that suits Khalid’s voice to a T; it’s that low-level, twilight funk framework that elevates his voice to a place it had never been before and the crowd fed off every second.
Of course, ‘Location’ and ‘Young Dumb & Broke’ were the two smash hits everyone was holding out for, and Khalid made sure he’d saved the best for last. The subtle melody of ‘Location’ contrasted perfectly with the rambunctiousness of ‘Young Dumb & Broke’. These songs act as the perfect Jekyll/Hyde to Khalid’s ethos behind American Teen. He performed ‘Location’ – “the song that changed my life forever” – with stunning restraint that again was mirrored by the crowd. It’s that self control that makes the song so endearing in the first place, especially given the tried and true subject matter of a booty call.
But, ‘Young Dumb & Broke’, a sure-to-be anthem for teens of the Instagram age, is the song that blew away every other one that came before it. It’s loud, it’s boisterous, it’s everything society thinks that teenagers are and it doesn’t care one bit. As the crowd sang back the somewhat tongue-in-cheek lyrics of “You always say I’m wrong / I’m pretty sure I’m right,” you can’t help but feel the future is in good hands. Teenagers are adamant, adapting, and learning information at a faster rate and at a wider capacity than ever before. ‘Young Dumb & Broke’ might be the song that surmises American Teen and this electrifying show the best, but that by no extent means we shouldn’t trust the teenagers to rally together and truly change the world. And with Khalid at the forefront, being the voice of this generation that they desperately needed, there’s nothing they can’t do.
Photo by Gabrielle Clement/Project U
Words by JACKSON LANGFORD