Beats on the Bank: Khalid brought music, dancing, taste of teenage spirit

After Rutgers’ own DJ Vacay warmed up the crowd with remixes of this year’s top hits, and newly signed DaniLeigh showed up and showed out with her own original music, the crowd of Rutgers students in the College Avenue Gym were ready to jump onto the stage in anticipation of Khalid’s performance. So when the purple lights shut off and the smoke that covered the stage cleared, the crowd erupted with applause and screams.

The singer and songwriter from El Paso, Texas, who is known for his soulful combinations of hip-hop, rock and cutting-edge music, came out dressed in black harem sweats, a black hoodie and sneakers, emulating the same “laid-back teenager” vibes that come out in his songs.

When Khalid started singing the words to “American Teen,” his backup band donned varsity jackets with the same name and girls dressed in cheerleading costumes danced behind him. The crowd started singing the words back to him and the scene looked like something that came out of a feel-good high school movie’s prom scene. Girls in the front row stretched their hands out to the singer, reaching for him and screaming “I love you,” as Khalid shimmied from side to side.

You could tell that Khalid is only 19 years old and new to the industry as he awkwardly repeated dance moves and paced back and forth on the stage. But somehow these nervous habits complimented the aesthetic that the entire show held and only worked to make the performance feel that much more personal.

Khalid sang a total of 14 songs, all off of his album “American Teen.” Some songs were seemingly less known by the crowd such as “Keep Me,” “Cold Blooded” and “Silence." Students merely swayed along rather than singing to those tracks. But when Khalid played his hits, like “Shot Down,” “Let’s Go,” “Young Dumb & Broke” and especially “Location,” it was clear to see that they were crowd favorites.

Khalid started singing “Location” in a slow and mournful voice, prompting the audience to cheer. Then he broke out into the song’s original tune, and the crowd became a loud vision of cellphone lights swaying from side to side. The individual lights beaming out from the dark stadium made the gym look like a night sky.

The Texan singer ended the show telling the audience “I want to play one more song for you,” and the instrumentals for “Young Dumb & Broke” started playing behind him. 

The lyrics of the song, including “We’re just young, dumb and broke, but we still got love to give,” echoed throughout the venue, resulting in dewy-eyed students singing loud. As the song came to its last minute, red, white and blue confetti came falling down from the ceiling of the stage and covered the audience. Students jumped up and down and reached out for the confetti as Khalid belted out the last lyrics of the song.

Khalid may be a fairly new face to the music scene, but the way he transports his audience to a night in high school shows that he knows exactly what he’s doing. Although Khalid does sing hip-hop, his ability to create a concert that incorporates the feeling of rock and roll is impressive. Besides his innocent and quirky shoulder shimmy, it seems like he has the makings to go far. And when he does, Rutgers students will get to have said that had the chance to see a superstar right here on the Banks.

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