The newly minted king of music streaming, Khalid brought his R&B chill and dressed-down dorm vibes to TD Garden, laying down 32 tracks to promote his second full length album, Free Spirit.

8/10/19 – TD Garden

In front of a Tasty Burger outside TD Garden, a young fan says, “I only listen to hip hop, but for some reason, I love Khalid.” When the 17 year old R&B prodigy from El Paso debuted his 2017 album American Teen, he broke a new sound, which has been cheekily referred to as “emo-soul.” This new style quickly funneled in listeners from all genre loyalties, including hip hop, given Khalid’s focus on smooth head-nodding base kicks, soul snaps, and catchy R&B hooks. His songs have also been a lyrical rallying cry for his peer group of “young dumb broke high school kids.” Now he’s the most streamed artist in the world and has earned five Grammy nominations and The MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist. Khalid blessed Boston with a highly coveted stop on his first arena tour in honor of his sophomore album Free Spirit, which grapples with isolation and insecurity through mid-tempo grooves, lo-fi production, ear-candy hooks, and cross-genre, A-list collaborations.

Khalid’s approachability is what came through during the show, despite his massive success. The 21 year old superstar came out in a bright green Hawaiian-print shirt, which upon closer inspection, was covered in Frankenstein heads and roses. It did not look like expensive, global A-lister garb, and it worked perfectly. He spent the first 15 minutes of the show like he had shown up for an autograph signing appearance, as he looked for posters to sign and kids to bring on stage. He even let a teen come up on stage and he asked her in a velvety soft tone, “Do you want to sing with me? Do you want me to start?” They harmonized the beginning of Heaven,” and he held her hand with his voice as the audience became smitten.

The show clicked into gear when Khalid performed his brand new collaboration with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Right Back.” The track has an outdoor summer party vibe with a thumping beat that came through on the massive house system at the Garden. His dance crew came out, dressed in brightly colored sporty outfits that weren’t overly sexualized: a refreshing sight for such a huge a pop act. When he performed another recent smash,Better,” dancers sported red 80’s-style nylon jump-suits, which, under the black lights, made the suits look neon pink. Their popping and locking was further enhanced as the giant background screen projected glossy pearl-white silhouettes of the dancers moving in slow motion.

The set was mystical but minimal. There was a floor-to-ceiling projection screen, starting with spiritual imagery of star constellations and sprawling desert landscapes. The set revealed its capabilities as the show progressed. As Khalid performed American Teen,” the stage took on a 3rd dimension as 50-foot-tall white lace curtains came out on the sides, and then eventually, in front of Khalid. These semi-transparent surfaces were then used to create some visually stunning 3D imagery using moving projection art.

 

On stage, Khalid’s personality bounced back and forth between professional and giddy. He would often say excitedly, “Are you ready for the next song?” But, he also had a soft-spoken, almost nervous, demeanor, and it was like he wasn’t sure if they would say yes. Khalid and his crew fully tapped into young, laid-back vibes during OTW,” when they ended the performance by taking a group selfie pic on stage. It was an incredibly heartwarming moment in the show because it felt real, like a group of high-schoolers taking a graduation selfie. 

Khalid’s shows and new album are both based out of impeccable honesty. He doesn’t paint extravagant pictures of unrealistic lifestyles; rather, he talks about very everyday things that American teens deal with. The performance was meant to make fans feel at home. During “Salem’s Interlude” near the end of the show, a girl said over the house speakers, “I think it’s really nice to see how far being a genuine person can get you.” Khalid offers assurances like this in his music to those who are listening, not matter what they are dealing with. 

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