Words by Charles Odugbesan
Photography by Karan Teli
So the 21 year old US pop sensation Khalid performed at the O2 arena for the first time, off the back of his Free Spirit album (released in early April) and came close to selling out back to back nights! Never in his wildest dreams, particularly following his college years, where he proclaimed to the London crowd he had ‘no idea’ what he wanted to do, could the Georgia native have imagined wowing a European crowd with a two hour set complete with all of his hits and a medley of features. Question is… did he cover all the bases?
First things first, can he actually sing live?
Big time! Whether he was bouncing around the stage to ‘Young, Dumb and Broke’ or serenading the crowd to ‘Bluffin’ or ‘Alive’, he was able to move seamlessly through different moods and vocal ranges with complete control. He never sounded off key or sang a bum note, he never missed a lyric and all the while; he made it look effortless. Check!
Did the performance look too rehearsed?
Nope. Khalid sang, danced and grinned his way through a lengthy 32 song set which was made to flow well by the live band adding a little extra funk to the instrumentals. He gave off a genuine impression that he was enjoying himself and relishing the opportunity rather than simply going through the motions. His performance seemed truly authentic. Check!
Did he show a good stage presence?
Not only was Khalid warm and engaging with the audience but so were his dancers – 6 long time friends of the his whose confidence and energy added to the whole aesthetic further. Khalid was up close and covered all areas of the stage. At no point did he appear distant or out of touch. He carried a natural charisma and spoke with the kind of likeable personality that his music suggested he had. No surprise he has a healthy following. Check!
Were the visuals up to scratch?
The lightshow was experimental. A little EDM here, touching montages and video recordings there. The colours of the rays would cleverly match the mood of certain songs and Khalid was so distinguishable throughout. The man was wearing khakis and a grandad jumper… but it worked! All because the huge grin and the smooth vocals made it bearable. Check!
Did the guest appearance(s) provide a spark?
Of course! The night before Khalid welcomed Ed Sheeran to the stage so the crowd would have been right to expect another high profile cameo. And they weren’t disappointed – AJ Tracey stepped out to perform Ladbroke Grove, one of the sounds of the summer, and provide one of the highlights of the evening. Appropriate timing because the English weather is back and summer is officially over! Also Raye and Mabel were the two brilliant warm up acts kicking off the show. Check!
So Khalid checks all the boxes and I’m sure he’ll be as delighted about his most recent trip to London as the 30,000 that saw him were. What are the odds we get a chance to see him around these parts again soon?