Last night at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, Troye Sivan asked the lighting tech to turn on the house lights, and gasped when he saw the sold-out crowd really did stretch all the way to the tip-top of the storied outdoor amphitheater. “LA, I don’t mean to brag, but we sold out the Greek!” he exclaimed, with the knowing pride of a California local, floored by his own presence at such a landmark venue.
It seems that even after his new album Bloom — for which he memorably announced the release date onstage at a Taylor Swift show — debuted in the Billboard top five back in September, the 23-year-old blossoming star can still barely believe his good fortune. Well on his way to being a pop star on the Swift level, if I wasn’t already convinced of his staying power by Bloom‘s succinct, brilliant run-time, last night put to rest any further doubt: Sivan is a pop star of the highest order. He will never play a proper tour show at a venue as small as the Greek again.
One of the hallmarks of a pop star, particularly in the Swiftian understanding of the role, is an eye (or an ear) for other rising talents. The same way Taylor bestowed her blessing on Camila Cabello and Troye this year (and one of his notable collaborators, Charli XCX), he, in turn, tapped rising talent like Kim Petras to open for him on tour, even side-stepping potential drama when Petras defended her frequent collaborator, Dr. Luke, drawing the ire of the public shaming machine hellbent on defending Kesha. Sivan responded not by cutting Petras off, but allowing that her opinion didn’t align with his, and donating money from the shows to organizations like RAINN that help survivors of sexual assault. He turned a negative into a positive, and without throwing a fellow LGBTQ artist under the bus.
For her part, Petras was an excellent opener for Sivan, rocking a “bloody and slutty” Halloween costume, and bringing her signature, sparkling pop bops to a venue that was already mostly full in anticipation of the main attraction. The inroads Petras has made this year, as one of the most prominent transgender pop stars in a world that has long been unwelcoming to this identity, are revolutionary in their own right, and she deserves massive respect for bangers like “Heart To Break,” and plenty of other beloved gems off her latest release, Turn Off The Lights, Vol. 1.
Yet, by the time Sivan took the stage, the Greek Theatre had turned into a hall of worship for one entity and one entity only — and then there was Troye. Even if he was surprised by the amount of love and passion that drove his fans, screaming, to this hallowed east side venue, the ones around me weren’t at all fazed by the enthusiastic reception he got. And while Sivan himself noted that West Hollywood bars and clubs were probably hurting that night, as most of the queer population in Los Angeles had showed up at his show, even the ones who weren’t loudly screaming were enamored by his impressive charisma and effortless charm.
Yes, Troye is an excellent singer and songwriter, and yes, his stage presence as a musician is unf*ckwithable, but he has something even more than that, his innate charisma makes even the in-between-song-speeches he gives hit a high note with fans. They never ring false or flukey, but sound like the honest confessions of another twenty-something trying to figure out his way in the world. Sivan was particularly open about his struggles with coming out and accepting his own queer identity, gracing the audience with a special performance of “Revelation,” his collaboration with Jónsi of Sigur Rós for the new movie, Boy Erased, which comes out this Friday.
The movie addresses the horrors of gay conversion therapy, and Troye talked about how offering young, queer kids this shiny bauble — something that claims to take all their troubles away — is so appealing when you’re deeply closeted, that he wonders if he would’ve succumbed to pressure to go himself. It was because of that terrifying thought, he explained, that he wanted to be involved in the film in the first place, and eventually ended up not just writing a song to contribute to the soundtrack, but taking on a role in the movie itself, too.
And in his open-hearted, effortless style, Sivan is able to explain the experience of a queer kid anywhere in the world, and make it clear that caring for and loving the queer community is what any mindful, liberated person believes in 2018. It’s not a talking point or a liberal-leaning ideology, it’s quite literally just common sense.
As one of the most prominent openly gay pop stars of his generation, some say Sivan is saddled with a unique cross to carry. But that isn’t how he thinks of it at all. On stage at the Greek, Sivan was open and conscious about his sexuality, and about his queer fans, but in no way did that prohibit him from putting on a show that any fan — of any age, gender, or sexuality — could enjoy with equal enthusiasm.
His music is the kind of inclusive, buoyant art that supersedes the individual and the specific, and becomes about the collective: Young people in love, hopeful about the future, getting their hearts broken and building them back up. That he is first and foremost speaking to a historically disenfranchised group only adds to his appeal. Armed with his musical talent and a cause of acceptance and grace that could quite literally change the world, Troye Sivan is about to be bigger than any of his pop peers. Just watch him bloom.
Bloom is out now via EMI Music Australia. Get it here.