Troye Sivan's Radio City Debut Shows His Taylor Swift Ambitions - Rolling Stone
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Troye Sivan Shows His Taylor Swift Ambitions at Radio City Music Hall

‘My My My!’ singer brings confident pop moves to New York City, with special appearances from Charli XCX, Leland and Kim Petras

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09:  Troye Sivan in concert at Radio City Music Hall on October 9, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09:  Troye Sivan in concert at Radio City Music Hall on October 9, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images)

Troye Sivan in concert at Radio City Music Hall on October 9, 2018 in New York City.

Craig Barritt/Getty Images

You might have thought you were entering a Troye Sivan costume contest when you entered Radio City Music Hall on the evening of October 9th. Young, lanky, male-presenting fans with hair bleached to match the South African singer were peppered into each row at the storied New York venue, breathing the words of his two albums to life as Sivan himself delivered a convincing plea to be the world’s next great pop star. By the end of his 90-minute set, his case felt completely substantiated.

Opening sets from Sivan’s songwriting partner-in-crime Leland and up-and-coming pop princess Kim Petras set the tone for the night. Leland performed to a fairly full crowd, an achievement for any opening act, but of course, if you’re a diehard Sivan fan, catching the songwriter/just-burgeoning singer is a must. He gave a modest set, coming into his energy by the end with “Mattress,” a doozy of a dance-pop torch song.

Kim Petras took the stage next like a Fred Segal Barbie doll living the dream of the early 2000s. In her onstage charm and the bright pink sound of her synth-pop, she’s close to a platonic ideal of what Paris Hilton’s music career should’ve been after “Stars Are Blind.” Petras strutted across the stage to rich and druggy Los Angeles fantasies like “Hillside Boys,” “I Don’t Want It at All” and “Hills,” and added a couple of songs off her new Halloween-themed EP Tell Me It’s a Nightmare, including the delectably spooky standout “Close Your Eyes.” It was too bad her DJ/hypeman was pulling so much focus, overzealously jumping around his side of the stage. Still, nothing could steal Petras’ moment when she belted “Can’t Do Better” at the end of her set.

Through these opening acts, Radio City’s red curtain had yet to be lifted. Soon a Troye-sized gap emerged, just long enough to let the night’s headliner stand at the front of the stage. In matching green blazer and pants, he sang “Seventeen,” the opening track of his recently released Bloom. As the song’s sound opened up beneath a tale of a doomed May-December romance, so did the set: The four-piece band was elevated and flanked by staircases for Sivan to join them throughout the show.

Sivan went next into “Bloom,” a bright song about being physically open with a lover, jumping around the stage like a newborn fawn, his long legs gracefully sprinting from one point to the next. His perfectly assembled band are a welcome complement to his energy, adding weight to the soft synths of his catalog and even some rousing guitar solos, including a particularly adrenaline-pumping one during “Plum.” Afterward, Sivan took a moment to talk with his audience and to take off his green jacket and reveal a sheer Valentino top, to deafening screams. During this break he invited a man named Judah on to the stage, acting like it was a random person from the audience only for it to become a planned proposal as Judah’s boyfriend, Daniel, came to join them on stage.

“My e-mail address — I’m going to change it in the morning — is literally just,” he said, telling the story of how Judah had contacted him to plan the sweet moment. Even more powerful was the one-two punch as this moment led into “Heaven,” a song Sivan wrote coming out. “Without losing a piece of me/How do I get to heaven?” he sang during the emotionally-charged, phone-lit ballad.

The rest of the set showed the type of careful attention to structural detail Sivan has already mastered. The show is separated into three parts, with three outfit changes to match. The stage got a makeover after the sweeping cinematic romance of Part I; a plush couch emerged on the elevated part of the stage, flanked by tall lamps. From there, Sivan performed ballads like “Postcard” and “The Good Side” in an all-white outfit. He even had a special surprise for the audience, debuting his Boy Erased song “Revelation” instead of his usual cover of Post Malone’s “Better Now.”

Following the ballads, Sivan came back in a white tank and black leather pants for the dance portion of the show. Charli XCX came out for their new single “1999,” wearing all-green to match the single’s cover art. They bounced around together and Sivan’s clear affection and fandom jumped out as they shared this moment. He ended the main set with “Animal” and joked about the game of pretending this was his last song of the night. A few minutes later, he came back to end the show for real with an encore of “Youth” and “My My My!,” transforming the second half of the latter into a head-spinning EDM banger.

During the beginning of “My My My!” Sivan observed that starting off a song at the top of the elevated stage portion made him feel “like Taylor Swift.” Maybe that level of pop ambition isn’t as far off as it seems. Sivan carries himself well on stage, embodying the sweeping, changing emotions of each of his songs with grace. Moving from fragility to raw sensuality is no easy feat, but he makes it look like a walk in the park. It makes you wonder what he can do in bigger venues — don’t be surprised if he’s playing an arena before long.

Still, the minute he was done channeling his inner Swift, Sivan returned back to his charming default setting: just a goofy 23-year-old still convincing himself he’s not dancing in front of a mirror anymore.

Troye Sivan Set List:

“Lucky Strike”
“The Good Side”
“What a Heavenly Way to Die”
“1999” (w/ Charli XCX)
“Dance to This”

“My My My!”


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