You only have to read the responses to any social media post by Hayley Kiyoko to see that she has a very passionate following. They don’t call her Lesbian Jesus for nothing.
So it came as little surprise that mere months after her last headline shows in the UK, the US pop star has sold out yet another string of dates as part of a European Encore Tour. London’s O2 Forum Kentish Town is packed to the rafters with adoring disciples, same-sex couples, and plenty of Pride flags with #20GayTeen written across them. It’s essentially a queer congregation.
But this isn’t blind infatuation on their part for a sparkly pop idol. As soon as Hayley Kiyoko steps out on stage, it’s clear this is an artist who can perform and then some.
Second track in and she’s already pulled out almighty anthem What I Need, slickly moving across the stage as thousands sing the chorus back at her. Flanked by a live band and sharp, colourful lighting, it’s not a huge production but it is incredibly effective nevertheless. So effective, in fact, that excited girls at the front of the crowd can’t contain themselves and throw bundles of underwear at her. “We’re not wasting any time are we?” Hayley laughs. “We’re going straight to the point.”
That electric energy in the venue only served to boost Hayley through a setlist of hits and album tracks, with 90% of the crowd knowing every word to every track. Naturally, Girls Like Girls sparked hysteria as Hayley popped and locked to the lesbian pop banger. Elsewhere, Mercy / Gatekeeper and Molecules provided the more softer moments, causing lights on smartphones to pop up above heads and sway along.
And despite some consistently complex choreography, Hayley’s vocal remained crisp throughout. Backed with two male dancers and pulling through with some throwback early 00s movement, you’d be forgiven for thinking Hayley is channeling what we liked to think was some lesbian Justin Timberlake realness. “I just wanted that Strings Attached *NSYNC arena dream,” she told the crowd, confirming our suspicions.
HAYLEY KIYOKO PLAYING THE GUITAR IS SUCH A TURN ON pic.twitter.com/YcAXn5CZ0n
— skinny legend (@WitchesSister) January 30, 2019
But it’s not just with the choreography that Hayley has fun with. She takes opportunities throughout the set to show off her musicianship too, going all Travis Barker on us at one point with a raucous smashing of the drum kit. During a performance of Sleepover she steps out plucking the bass guitar, ramping up the funk on the infectious pop track.
As she rounds out the show – and with plenty of bras now hanging on the drum kit at the back of the stage from adoring fans – renditions of Feelings and Let It Be showcase the tender and vulnerable moments of her debut album Expectations, albeit with an addictive pop melody. But it’s on her most popular single Curious that she gears into full superstar mode. Dance breaks, plenty of attitude, and a chewy hook to boot, it’s a sparkly example of everything we love about pop music.
It’s 15 tracks in and nearing the end of the show but the crowd haven’t let up at all, singing, cheering and dancing to every beat. If you thought #20GayTeen ended with the close of 2018, Hayley Kiyoko proved that it’s a mantra that goes way beyond just a year – it will forever be alive.
Gay Times gives Hayley Kiyoko’s Encore Tour show at London’s O2 Forum Kentish Town a rating of 5/5