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Khalid's pure talent on show at Spark Arena

Newshub logoNewshub 5 days ago Sarah Templeton

a man in a dark room © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited "We're really old," my friend Freddy and I kept saying to each other, as we lined up at Spark Arena ready for a big Sunday night out with what seemed like every 16-year-old in Auckland.

Khalid's only Auckland show drew big numbers, so large that the original show sold out in 10 minutes and the venue had to change to contain all the hormones. Seeing that in person was quite overwhelming. All we could see around us were bare navels - I wear more in the shower than was on some of these bodies.

"They'll catch a cold," Freddy and I agreed, feeling the years of experience and wisdom weighing heavy on us. (We're 22 and 23, respectively).

There was no queue for drinks though, so that was nice.

The crowd was reflective of a generation that can fully connect to the 19-year-old Texas native's lyrics: songs about analysing text messages and connecting through a dropped pin on maps. But don't think that means a 90-minute set of Beieber-esque mass produced shit - Khalid has taken modern analogies to wrap up age-old themes of first love, heartbreak and getting high in your friend's car.

As he ran out onto the stage at Spark and launched straight into the title track 'American Teen', the screaming crowd surged forward - the large step backwards we had been made to take by the hype guy no match for the force of emotion of so many adoring fans. There were no fake fans here - every pause for breath was filled with the lyrics screamed back at him, word-perfect.  

Red and blue electric light shows accompanied dance tracks like 'Another Sad Love Song' and '8TEEN', and the energy was relentless. Even those at the back of the arena who could probably only see the show via the mass of phone screens in front of them still gave it their all. (My singing will be in a lot of Snapchats from people around me, and I'm uncomfortable about it.)

Backup dancers with cheerleading pom-poms dancing behind him seemed like an afterthought; Khalid owned the stage with his own goofy dance moves  - a cross between a young James Brown and your drunk uncle at a wedding.

Spark Arena is not a small room, and it can be a hard venue to dominate. It's so spacious that even when the most charismatic artists can find it difficult to pull energy back from concert-goers - not a problem this evening. 

"You guys are the loudest crowd I've ever had," Khalid told the screaming, crying set, and I think he actually meant it.

He was endlessly polite, thanking the crowd after every song. "I appreciate you guys so much," he kept repeating sincerely.

Other reviews have noted awkwardness in his audience chit-chat. It seems to have been wiped out with the practice he's had over four massive months of touring. After thanking the crowd another couple of times, he paused, ready to launch into heartbreak hit 'Cold Blooded'.

"This next song is about my ex- girlfriend," he told the crowd, before pausing and adding "f*ck her". He seemed genuinely delighted by the roar of approval from the mostly-female crowd, obviously having figured out the way to the hearts of a Kiwi audience - chuck in an f-bomb.

Some girls to my left started a chart of "f*ck that b*tch, f*ck that b*tch".

I may or may not have joined in for a wee bit.

It was just so easy to get caught up in the hype of it. There was a lot of overwhelming hormonal emotion in the air, mixed with a strong hit of Marc Jacobs Daisy. As the opening bars of mellow croon tune 'Coaster' began, it was just too much for one girl behind us. She collapsed into full hysteria, tears pouring off her face onto the back of my top. She had to be held up by her matching denim-shorted, crop-topped friend. They clung to each other through the entire song, obviously feeling a deep pain those of us over 14 just couldn't fathom.

Khalid is not just talented, he's also savvy. He knows that his album has a mellow side, perfect for a cloudy Sunday afternoon stroll, less so for the dance floor in Ponsonby on a Saturday night. Unexpected rock riffs in 'Silence', his collaboration with Marshmellow, saved the mood from dropping, as did a perfectly placed guitar solo in 'Location'. 

But it was the final 'Young Dumb and Broke' that had everyone in the room lose their minds and their voices. We felt the pressure, after the performer reminded us not once, but twice, that the song went to number one in New Zealand before anywhere else. You could feel the energy charge - there was a reputation to uphold here. Everyone sang their guts out like an X Factor audition, the confetti cannon on the last chorus bringing more waves of emotion around me.

Okay, fine. My voice is also fully gone and tears may have fallen.

I'm just one of many in that room praying his promise to return was not just talk - Khalid's one New Zealand show was absolute perfection.

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