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Khalid returns home to a sold-out Don Haskins Center

Sergio Muñoz Esquer
Khalid performs for a sold out crowd in the first of his two hometown shows at the Don Haskins Center on Friday, Sept. 14.

Khalid’s concert last Friday, Sept. 14 at the Don Haskins Center was one of two arena shows he played for his “915 Hometown Shows” tour, a testament to the scale of this El Paso singer-songwriter’s stardom. The platinum-selling artist proved to a sold-out audience that his love for the Bordertown is beyond compare—even though he’s traveled around the world by now.

“I’ve traveled all over the world and they love you all, they love the 915,” Khalid said. “But El Paso is by far the best and loudest city of them all.”

Clearly a natural pop idol, the El Pasoan is also a singer, dancer and a magnetic performer. Though this was his first time playing at the Don Haskins, he has been performing in El Paso—and other larger cities—since 2016, long before he made the transformation from high school military brat into one of the most beloved singers working in the pop mainstream.

These hometown concerts served as both an affirmation of the success he’s had with his debut album American Teen, which has been littered with chart-topping hits and also as a reminder of how modest his early shows were when he was only a local favorite playing at Americas High School.

The show was opened by local producers The Swell Kids, who have been making a name for themselves around the city for last two years or so. As always, The Swell Kids demonstrated their mixing talents—keeping the crowd pumped and excited for the main event.

Rising from underneath the stage to join his live band, Khalid started his set off with “Young Dumb & Broke”—perhaps the biggest hit off his latest album—which set the tone for an energetic performance.

The show, which felt much more like a gig by a seasoned professional on a major label, featured the same “Scenic Drive 915” sign that was debuted at the 2018 Teen Choice Awards.

At this concert, it was clear that Khalid’s changes in recent years have been largely in terms of scale, not mood. Judging by the volume of the audience sing-alongs, which was with almost every song, it’s clear that Khalid has reached a level of prestige in El Paso that no other artist has reached before.

Musically, his set was buoyant and full of spontaneous energy, despite its three-piece live band being augmented by a backing track to add earth-moving grooves. Though the setlist skewed toward his more recent material, Khalid pleased loyal to longtime fans as he performed songs from his first studio album—reinvigorating the early material as if it was recently released.

The inclusion of a live band was the cherry on top of Khalid’s more emotional and intense performances. For example, the passionate guitar solo that unfolded during “Angels,” made Khalid’s heartfelt dedication to his friend Ben Sanchez a sentimental memory that the audience won’t soon forget.

In addition to debuting and performing two new songs this past weekend, “Intro Song” and “Raining in Miami,” Khalid performed his recently released “Better” and older hits such as “Location,” “Coaster” and “8TEEN.”

Even at his poppiest, Khalid makes what might be termed sad anthems — with bruised subject matter like loss and pain and barely any reliance on the exuberance that underlies so much pop music. But when he performed early favorites like “Hopeless,” it was just as potent as more recent numbers like “Better.”

The night came with a few surprises. Khalid brought along with him Billie Eilish and Atlanta R&B singer 6LACK. After performing “lovely” with Khalid, Eilish sang her hit single “Ocean Eyes,” which drove the audience wild. 6LACK came out singing his own hit “Prblms” and later performed with Khalid a new track off his new album East Atlanta Love Letter called “Seasons.”

The love for El Paso was clear both on and off stage, as Khalid performed to an audience full of El Pasoans sporting UTEP and Chihuahuas swag. Toward the end of the show, Khalid said his goodbyes, reminding the audience once again of his love for El Paso before the music stopped playing and the lights came up.

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Khalid returns home to a sold-out Don Haskins Center