If you didn’t make it to Tuesday’s sold-out concert by electro-R&B star Khalid at Xcel Energy Center, there are probably 15,000 young people’s social-media accounts now offering the play-by-play.
The slow-grooving, smooth-singing 21-year-old star from El Paso, Texas, has made his mark singing about romance in the smartphone age. His breakout hit, “Location” — which went viral in 2016 even before he graduated from high school — begged a girl to ping him her whereabouts. Since then, he’s released two albums’ worth of agelessly innocent songs documenting love and relationships via texting and posting.
No surprise, then, his amped-up Minnesota fans arrived with powered-up phones in hand ready to upload from what was only the second Twin Cities performance by the shy, tender military kid born Khalid Robinson (after a sold-out 2017 gig at Myth nightclub).
Not to be confused with that DJ who drops his own name into every song (Khaled), the fast-rising sensation proceeded to unload 30 songs on the crowd — nearly his entire canon — in a 100-minute set that suggested he may still be a little too green and subdued to be an arena headliner. But don’t tell that to the sea of youths excitedly singing and videoing along to almost every one of those tunes.
Khalid walked on stage in a Minnesota Wild jersey and never took it off, which seemed like a very nice gesture for a kid from West Texas who probably doesn’t know a hockey stick from a fishing pole. His affable demeanor extended to his between-song banter, too; mostly incredulous-sounding thank yous and such humble setups as, “I hope you like this song.”
While there was zero glitz and sometimes way too little pep in his stage presence, he brought a stage production that added a lot of pizazz. His giant, two-tier video backdrop showed home-movie-like footage of him palling around with friends (and who wouldn’t want to be his bud?). Meanwhile, a solid backing band was split into two at both ends of the stage, and a small dance troupe appeared intermittently.
He opened the show with a trio of numerical songs, “8teen,” “Twenty One” and “Hundred,” all upbeat and demonstrating his breezy blend of Frank Ocean-like emo-soul and ’80s synth-pop.
About a half-hour in, he slowed down the tempos to show off his gooey-sticky vocal talent with a batch of more dramatic, willowy tunes, including “Bluffin’ ” and “Motion.” The fact that the kid genuinely has the goods made it extra distracting when he sometimes resorted to canned backing vocals and heavy-handed electronic vocal effects.
The grooves picked back up and the dancers kicked into high gear with the infectious, feel-good gem “Better.” That set up a midshow blowout in the form of “Location” and the Marshmello-produced hit “Silence,” the latter ironically one of the loudest singalongs.
Things turned even more mushy and mopey later on with “Angels” and “Alive,” both of which our affable ringleader delivered entirely while seated on a stool center stage, as if he were watching a weepy Hallmark Channel movie for inspiration.
At least that heavy-handed montage gave fans a chance to rest their phone batteries, which they needed for the danceable hits stacked up at show’s end, including the playful twister “Talk” and two mildly angst-laden anthems, “Outta My Head” and “Young, Dumb & Broke.” Those latter two tunes would’ve been perfect soundtrack material for a John Hughes movie or any other timeless teen flick; no cellphones required.