It was one of the hottest tickets in town: experiencing US tween sensation Conan Gray’s only Australian show in Sydney’s intimate The Lair.
With a clear divide in the crowd between lucky young fans and curious industry members, it was a night that united both sides through a diaristic performance by the 21-year-old Texan. In fact, it was Conan’s last ever performance of his EP Sunset Season before his debut album Kid Krow is released in March.
It was almost like a showcase night, with Conan coming straight on stage with zero opening act. He kicked off the night with ‘The King’, before rolling into ‘Generation Why’. It was in this song he ran into technical difficulties, but brushed it off like it was no big deal at all.
He filibustered with his impressions of Australia – it’s his first time down under – and that he was utterly disappointed that no kangaroos were in the crowd. At that point, a fan threw a plush kanga on stage and answered his prayers.
Then it was back to show time: ‘Generation Why’ started again with his all-female band. The youthful four-piece consisted of keys, kit and a guitarist/bassist who would toss between the two as Conan used the guitar or went vocally solo.
He bashed out ‘Comfort Crowd’ on the guitar – a song about those best friends you can sit and do absolutely nothing with for 17 hours and shoot them a meme or two in that time. His introduction into each song was a highlight of his performance, really giving his audience an insight into what exactly inspired the tune whether that be a particular person or moment.
He not only brought the audience into his performance through his engaging stories, but also perfectly balanced his physical throwing to the crowd to sing. In amongst his high kicks and energetic hair thrashing, he used the mass of fans as his echo vocals.
One song that really stuck a chord was ‘Lookalike’, about Conan’s first love. As he explained, it’s about liking someone so much; like really really falling completely for them and the relationship ending. Then the aftermath: dating other people but deep down wishing they were just like the first person you really fell for – the person you’ll never be able to stop loving even just a little bit – and searching for a “lookalike”. After his heartfelt “emo” foreword, it really made you listen harder and it’s safe to say my heart pang felt a little deeper from that backstory.
Then once more, my heart was messed when he teased the impetus for his most recent release, ‘The Story’. By the sounds of it, Conan had a tumultuous childhood in a tiny Texan town, being the token “damaged friend” as a result of family drama. He revealed a moment sitting in his bedroom at the age of 6, thinking life was just too hard and he was sure he wouldn’t be around at 12. Then as his 12th birthday rolled around, he began writing songs as therapy, uploading them to YouTube and garnering a following which quite literally saved his life. ‘The Story’ is a culmination of those experiences from his childhood that built him into the songwriter he is today.
He topped off his set with his hit tunes ‘Crush Culture’ (watching PDA makes him want to vomit) and ‘Maniac’ (he’s apparently pretty crazy, but the person calling him crazy was the real crazy here).
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if Conan Gray’s performance would live up to the buzz and hype, but I am more than happy to report my expectations were blown out of the water. For a somewhat monochromatic name, his performance was incredibly colourful (“I was told you can swear in performances in Australia? I’m going to make the most of that.”) and lively. Considering Kid Krow’s release is only next month, I’m very excited for what’s to come.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Kid Krow is set to be released March 20th 2020. Pre-order your copy here.