Reflecting on the 2019 Khalid concert in Melbourne that was…

By Frankey

Two weeks later and it still feels like Khalid’s concert in Melbourne comprised of nothing great.

Khalid – Free Spirit Tour
Performed live at Rod Laver Arena
Thursday 28 November 2019

Published exclusively for The Urban Scrapbook

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Two weeks have passed since Khalid was in Melbourne. That’s two weeks to digest an experience that on first impression felt short and weirdly confusing. For one, it’s rare to go to a concert without an encore in 2019. Do a quick search in Google for “Khalid Melbourne Review” and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any actual results for what you’re looking for. The reviews in 2017 for his performance back at Festival Hall were optimistic – Khalid was on the rise and everything on the horizon looked good. Indeed, Festival Hall is where many great artists start here in Melbourne before they’re big enough to book Rod Laver Arena. But come two years later, and there appears to be little, if anything great to say about his 2019 concert performance in Melbourne, which as a Khalid fan is difficult to admit.

You don’t need to know who Khalid is because you already know who he is.

You don’t need to know about his songs because you already know all of his songs.

So what you need to know is what went down and why this was arguably one of the most deflated concerts I’ve been to, maybe ever. I’m still a fan of Khalid, but perhaps not his live performances just yet. Whether this is a problem of curation or of performance, I’m still undecided.

Here we go. Honourable mentions that summarise the vibe of Khalid – Free Spirit 2019 – Melbourne, Rod Laver Arena:

  • Setlist: these were not so much complete songs as opposed to a sequence of “choruses”. Khalid primarily sang the chorus of some of his biggest hits and then transitioned (much like a produced compilation) into the next chorus or hook. I’m not sure I’ve experienced something like this in another concert before, so I’m not sure how to feel about it. All in all, Khalid spent just a little over an hour on stage.
  • Performance: perhaps there was an acoustic issue, but Khalid never seemed to actually sing all of his songs, preferring instead to defer to the crowd for large parts while his recorded voice played over the speakers. Rather than making a show of it, he’d typically trail off into a mumble and come back in at unexpected moments.
  • Accompanying performances: occasionally, a group of background dancers joined Khalid on stage attempting to add a layer of ‘free spirit’ to the performance – but yours truly found the choreography admittedly too ‘ad lib’ and unrehearsed.
  • Stage design: in 2019, Khalid’s visual concert language is nothing particularly memorable. A large screen sits in the middle, with two smaller screens flanked on both sides. By design, the stage limits Khalid’s ability to interact with the crowd, never at any point extending into the General Admission floor space.
  • Live band: OK, so here is where the concert hits a vibe, adding a unique twist to Khalid’s studio-produced tunes. Shout out to the drummer who took things to another level. But as much as I loved the band, I, along with many, came to see more from Khalid, not a band. Which leads me to my next point…
  • Stage presence: at one point, early in the show, Khalid interacts with one of the fans near the front of the stage. It’s apparent as the display progresses that they met backstage as part of his VIP Meet and Greet offering. She drew a picture of him and he signed it onstage. That’s about all the interaction with the crowd we see for the whole night. We never learn anything more about Khalid and his time in Australia or what he thinks about Melbourne.
  • No encore: no chant for an encore from the crowd, either. As soon as Khalid’s set finished, the lights went up and people headed for the exits. I was confused. I think many were confused, too.

Photography by Frankey on a Google Pixel 3

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