Revention Music Center
July 28, 2017
Two months ago, Khalid was the sure yet unsure opener for Travis Scott’s Birds Eye View tour. It stood to reason that his mere presence, as a lovelorn military kid from El Paso, would seriously contrast with his tour mate. However, his headlining set in the same building two months later told a different tale.
Gone was the nervous energy and the suspicion that the crowd only knew “Location” verbatim. Absent were the notions that an album built off a sound established more than a generation after he was born wouldn't work on a certain crowd and audience. Hell, the most nerve-wracking moment of his performing career came on live television at the BET Awards. He'd grown to kids swallowing up a whole boardwalk just to see him perform now. “Location” popping from a mere thousand Spotify plays felt like a lifetime ago.
Flanked by the same band he had with him in May, Khalid felt more comfortable for a crowd that was there solely for him. As dates began to sway back and forth and hurriedly rush through the Revention Center to sway all night, he popped with a smile following “Another Sad Love Song.” When the piano keys dropped for his self-professed favorite song off debut album American Teen, “Angels,” the crowd sounded ready to lift up and hoist him in the air with his arms aloft.
If Khalid’s entire motif was built around high school, he made sure everyone felt it Friday night. Rushing to the stage with a Super Soaker, he playfully doused fans in water the same way a varsity jock revving everyone up before a pep rally might do. It continued throughout the show: dancers with pom-poms doing a cheer routine, panties being thrown at him, screaming fans; none of this happened two months ago. Not in regards to an album whose emotional center revolves around teenage heartbreak. “Winter,” a single dedicated to his hometown, got dropped-down purple lighting and Khalid’s own sunny side of misery. “She left me broken and weary/ Drunk off the lies she told.” Though, of course, his chase for love, American Teen’s ethos elicited the loudest response for “Location.”
“Are you ready to sing this shit?” he asked. The crowd roared. He repeated himself for the hell of it, already knowing this crowd was his and his alone. Having gone from hundreds of fans singing his biggest hit to thousands of women startled him for a moment. Well, not until a second pair of panties hit the stage.
“It’s a humbling thing,” his band said following the show. “It’s honestly crazy because it used to be shoes. People try to put him in all these different boxes, but none of them are right. It’s wild to think he’s only 19 and can touch these different types of people.”
Getting his own stage instead of a small section of a larger one let Khalid find more kinks to throw at fans. “Location” got a lethargic drum and guitar solo to close out. “Rollin,” the assist he and Future teamed to throw Calvin Harris earlier this summer, had two girls displaying proud rap hands next to me. When it finally came time to wrap, “Young Dumb & Broke” felt like graduation procession — the end-of-summer jam where you could drunkenly slam-dance even if you were 93 percent off-beat.
How was it graduation? Confetti rained down on everybody as if we’d witnessed the finest valedictorian speech ever. Most freshly minted grads have summer jobs where they go off and intern for somebody’s dad. Khalid has other ideas. He’s going across the pond to tour with Lorde in support of her new album.
What a dream indeed.
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Personal Bias: Joyful pop songs that sit on the fringe of R&B are always a good thing.
The Crowd: A ton of kids waiting solely for their parents to grab them. Or adjust their training bras.
Overheard In the Crowd: “Do you like Taco Bell?” Anytime you have to ask this, you are immediately no older than 15.
Random Notebook Dump: Houston, in particular its teenagers transitioning between grades or even advancing from high school to college, got spoiled this summer. Big names weaved in and out of the city, from Kendrick to Future and even lesser but emerging acts such as Khalid. The demographics may change, the weight of the names may shift as time progresses, but Houston lucked out this summer in regards to live music.