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Concert Reviews:
Khalid showcases his free spirit at Little Caesars Arena
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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DETROIT -- Standing on his stark stage Sunday night, July 28, at Little Caesars Arena, Khalid hearkened back to two years ago and his first appearance in the metro area.



Recalling that he performed for just 200 people then, the Texas R&B/pop singer looked into the darkness and noted "to turn into all of this is really amazing" before performing his first hit, "Location."



"All of this" was a crowd of easily more than 10,000, an indicator of how much has changed for Khalid (nee Robinson) since "Location" came out in 2016. He's scored two Top 5 albums -- the latest, "Free Spirit," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 -- and an EP, with six Top 20 singles, a batch of guest appearances on others' hits and five Grammy nominations. That's not a bad haul for what's been a short career so far for the 21-year-old.







So it wasn't surprising that Khalid carried himself with a swagger more confident than cocky during a slightly bloated but still engaging hour-and-50-minutes on stage Sunday, during which he and his four-piece band (all sporting Free Spirit Tour T-shirts), along with six dancers, worked their way through more than 30 songs. Khalid spent the whole night sporting a Detroit Red Wings jersey (Tyler Bertuzzi's No. 59) and a backwards white baseball cap, chill but decidedly happy as he smoothed his way from one side of the stage to the other, occasionally busting a dance move but mostly focusing on his singing.



Particularly impressive was Khalid's ability to carry the night without a great deal of hype or spectacle. He spent more time without the dancers than with them, for example, and the visual heavy lifting was done primarily by a series of projection on the stage floor and on giant video screens behind and angled above him. During one long segment that included "Coaster," "Angels," "Alive," "Paradise" and "Self," Khalid simply sat on a stool, delivering the songs with an intimate, soulful emotion that cut through the size of the arena.



The "Free Spirit" album was, of course, the "star" of the night as Khalid and company performed 15 of its 17 tracks -- closing the show with the bonus cut "Saturday Nights." He also scored with a hot cover of Marshmello's "Silence" and a mellow take on Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" -- saluting that band as one of the reasons he became a singer and songwriter -- and dipped into his well of collaborations for Normani's "Love Lives" and a spirited rendition of "Eastside," his team-up with Benny Bianco and Halsey.



A bit of editing, perhaps trimming 15 or 20 minutes including a couple of self-serving pre-recorded verbal "interludes," would have helped the show move a bit better. But it was a strong show despite all that, giving every indication that the youthful Khalid, and his free spirit, is here to stay.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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