R&B artist Khalid performs at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec on Aug. 8, 2019.
Christinne Muschi / MONTREAL GAZETTE
A bashful Khalid brought his Free Spirit tour to Montreal’s Bell Centre on Thursday, pouring his soul onto a stage that seemed more like a dance floor in a bar or a friend’s basement than a place to be observed by thousands.Two years ago to the day, a 19-year-old Khalid performed at Metropolis. His debut album, American Teen, was released just a few months before that. For comparison’s sake, singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s first Montreal gig as a headliner back in 2012 took place at Olympia; a venue that holds a thousand less people. Sheeran’s first album had been out for over a year by then, and the singer had released several independent projects before that as well.
Khalid blended right in; if you let your gaze drift away for just a second, it took three times as long to locate the singer in the group.
Christinne Muschi /
Despite these differences, which serve not to discount Sheeran but rather to illustrate Khalid’s swift success, parallels can be drawn between the two. Though Khalid tours with a band and a handful of dancers – which Sheeran is very much known not to do – he probably doesn’t need to. The 21-year-old’s connection with the audience on Thursday was heartwarming from the moment he sang the first few lines of the title track to his second album, Free Spirit; he made everyone in the arena feel like he was looking directly at them. Would anyone have noticed if the band hadn’t been there? Probably not. Which is not to say they weren’t great, it just takes a specific charm to entertain thousands of people without any support.When Khalid addressed the crowd after the first few songs, he stopped recounting his past visits to the city twice to reply “love you too” to fans. As the singer belted out the familiar hums and moans that characterize his sound, he danced with people in the front row, then to the left of the stage, then to the right. He told fans of all the Canadian crowds he’s played for, Montreal had the most energy. That energy was established even before Khalid’s set, when Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road came on and sent the crowd into enough of a frenzy that the energy was maintained even when DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s Turn Down For What played; a trap song from 2013 that we won’t pretend anyone still likes.
When Khalid would perform alone onstage in front of the wall of colours, it was hard not to compare the scene to Drake’s Hotline Bling video.
Christinne Muschi /
The stage was set up with the band split on either side, leaving tons of room for Khalid and his dancers – who really seem like good buddies, above all else – to hop, skip and jump along to the singer’s blissful R&B beats. Were their moves choreographed? Definitely not all of them, which is probably why the show, for the most part, felt like a party at a friend’s house. Khalid blended right in; if you let your gaze drift away for just a second, it took three times as long to locate the singer in the group. They were eclipsed with eccentric shades of blue, then green, then orange lights. When Khalid would perform alone onstage in front of the wall of colours, it was hard not to compare the scene to Drake’s Hotline Bling video.When the singer sat down on a lone bench in the centre of the stage to serenade the crowd with some of his slower tracks, fans followed suit by sitting down as well. It was a break for their legs, but certainly not for their voices. Apart from a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, they almost always sang along in full force. Somehow, every song felt like it had the power to be the last.Khalid’s latest release, Free Spirit, is a string of songs you’d have on as the background to a balmy summer night, which is what his show felt like, despite being indoors. In addition to being extremely catchy and elaborately produced, Khalid’s music resonates with fans because it’s relatable. He sings about life, love, heartbreak and being young. Each one of these things feels inherently heavier when you’re young, and there is comfort in knowing you’re not alone.
Cozy is the perfect description for the entirety of the evening.
Christinne Muschi /
There is no doubt that when a Khalid song comes on, you know, without a shred of doubt, that it’s a Khalid song. The artist recently collaborated with Ed Sheeran on a song called Beautiful People. When asked in an interview with Charlamagne tha God why he chose to work with Khalid, Sheeran replied “His voice is so crisp and warm and soulful, but in a very weird way. He’s a soul singer who sings like a folk artist. That song, for me, is warmth. It just feels cozy.”Cozy is the perfect description for the entirety of the evening; Khalid’s voice was cozy, his performance was cozy, and the fans slow dancing in each other’s arms during his quieter tunes were, undeniably, cozy.During a pre-recorded video played about three quarters of the way into the show, Khalid said he’s on his way to becoming a free spirit, but doesn’t think he is one yet.When he gets there, he’ll let us email@example.comTwitter.com/katelynvthomasRelated