My younger sister gave me a very hot tip: Khalid, a sweet and genuine R&B-meets-rock singer-songwriter, is worth every ounce of our attention. His show at the Moda Center in Portland, OR stunned, then filled me up.
Busting out “8TEEN” to introduce an arc of growth over time, was a brilliant storytelling move. Hits from his discography, from “Location” to title track “Free Spirit,” wove a wonderful web of the hero’s journey we never get sick of.
There was a great gentleness in Khalid that was embodied in every genuine smile between dance moves, and a moment before “Bluffin’” when he signed the merch a fan had tossed on stage. And sure, some fans tossed their bras on stage like it was the ‘80s, but Khalid handled it with maturity: tossing them over his shoulder to show gratitude before disposing of them backstage. Home-video-style interludes brought nostalgia to the Free Spirit tour, and reminded us of the humble, unjaded authenticity our protagonist has to offer.
Khalid had a strong stage presence, even without having the wildest production tricks and tools. He proved that an audience can still be invested in a single, simple, shining sound without needing to be re-entertained every ten seconds. It was a full-bodied sound and feeling that seemed to hang in the air for a few more echoing moments. It was as if the performance itself was the smoke from a joint: evident, but not quite tangible; youthful, but classic.