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He’s 19 and he’s on fire: Khalid at Spark Arena

Alex Casey reviews Khalid’s show at Auckland’s Spark Arena on Sunday night.

Just like a very primitive prototype for an iPod shuffle, I have the capacity for a little over two albums a year. In 2017, my brain is completely full with Lorde’s Melodrama, and Khalid’s American Teen. By some kind of cosmic collision of art and commerce, they are both in New Zealand this week, fiercely dancing their way out of their own sticky heartbreak quicksand. While Lorde lit up Bruce Mason across the bridge, Khalid hit Spark Arena and confirmed, to borrow a phrase, that he’s 19 and he’s on fire.

Straight off the bat, Khalid is maybe the only person on Earth who can pull off what I can only describe as a “rambunctious jig” and still look cool. He bounced out to ‘American Teen’, with a fancy polo and fancy feet, and the crowd completely lost it. “I’ve never seen such a hyped crowd,” he later remarked, seeming genuinely stoked and shocked at the response. I bopped closer to the front, desperately trying to leech the energy from the cool teens like a sad old cyclist in the slipstream of younger, faster teammates.

Photo by Rachael Louise

“Things are about to get sad as shit,” Khalid warned before launching into ‘Another Sad Love Song’. He seemed relaxed and chatty, jibing about the scorned relationship that seemed to be responsible for most of his exceptional first album. “This song I wrote about my ex” he said of ‘Saved’ “…fuck my ex.” A girl behind me yelled, “Yeah, fuck that bitch.” That was about the most aggressive the night got, aside from a man zipping through the crowd away from a security guard in the comical style of Benny Hill.

He could have just sung and done his own brand of Riverdance a single spotlight, but the show was flooded with coloured lights for days, confetti and vivid graphics to reflect the mood of each song. We got everything from the violent burning bridges of ‘Another Sad Love Song’ (“Bridges they are burning. Lover, I am worried”) to a spinning ferris wheel of ‘Coaster’ (not quite the right fairground attraction but I’ll let it slide). Two dancers, sometimes dressed as cheerleaders, sometimes felt slightly out of place, occasionally interrupting his skipping with the odd grind.

Photo by Rachael Louise

Still not old enough to legally gamble on our shores, Khalid doesn’t have an enormous back catalogue yet, performing his album in its entirety as well as Marshmallo track ‘Silence’ to fill what fell short of 90 minutes. It was the perfect length for a Sunday night, where some of us hypothetically might have been feeling a bit tired and sore about 20 minutes in. Many songs were stretched with some shredding electric guitar, and things slowed down considerably for an acoustic version of ‘Hopeless’ and ‘Angel’, dedicated to a friend who passed away last week.

Finally, ‘Young Dumb and Broke’ closed the show, the smash single that shot Khalid to the moon and went number one on our fair shores before the rest of the world caught on. There is maybe nothing more joyous seeing than the smatterings of decidedly-not high school kids screaming “YOUNG DUMB BROKE HIGH SCHOOL KIDS” like they don’t have a pile of responsibilities to wake up to in the morning. “Nice, isn’t it?” said my friend Whitney, as we skipped out to beat the rush, confetti still falling from the sky. “Home at a reasonable hour and early to bed for work tomorrow.” Bless you, Khalid.


Khalid performed at Spark Arena on 12 November 2017. The Spinoff’s music content is brought to you by our friends at Spark. Listen to all the music you love on Spotify Premium, it’s free on all Spark’s Pay Monthly Mobile plans. Sign up and start listening today.

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