“I’m a little sick so I’m going to need you to sing EXTRA loud tonight,” Conan Gray warned the audience near the start of his show. The crowd gladly obliged with singalong after singalong throughout the electrifying set.
The last time Glide covered Gray (at NYC’s Terminal 5), the rising singer had not yet released his debut studio album, Kid Krow. Now, with that first record under his belt, as well as a solid slate of singles since then, Gray took another stride in his ascent to pop stardom with a live show at Detroit’s Fillmore on March 27th that impressed more than ever before with his jubilant energy, lean tracklist, ambitious set design, and leveled-up visuals.
The one thing that hasn’t changed in the last three years? Gray’s dedicated fan base.
Earlier in the day, fans braced below-freezing temperatures in force in Detroit. The line to enter The Fillmore stretched several blocks away from the venue, with an expected crowd of nearly 3,000. Here are five moments that stood out:
The set showcased Gray’s grander vision for set design. The singer began the show to the screams of thousands of fans while perched atop a huge visual display board. But as the recent single “Astronomy” began, the video board actually parted in the middle, revealing that it encased a replica of Gray’s bedroom. (He explained that he wrote most of these songs in his bedroom, so it was only fitting to give the audience a view into his creative space.) With “Astronomy” and “The Cut That Always Bleeds,” Gray showed off the power of his voice in his slow and measured tracks, all from the comfort of his bed.
Visuals in Overdrive
The huge video screen/riser provided ample opportunities for some creative visuals that amped up the impact of the songs. On “Overdrive,” the backdrop mimicked a car’s tail lights, accentuated by the red color palette of the lighting; on “Affluenza,” Grays’ mug was overlaid over a dollar bill; and on “The Story,” a bucolic backdrop of tall grass and cotton candy skies helped ground the wistful song in its inspiration, Gray’s upbringing in his small hometown in Texas.
A Solo Story
Even when Gray was workshopping “The Story” (before its proper release) during the last tour, it was clear that the track would pack an emotional punch in its final form. Once again, the singer took the stage solo, with just an acoustic guitar in his hands. “When you’re young, pain feels really permanent, but the thing is life does get a lot better actually,” Gray said to the crowd. “The fact that I get to sit here with you tonight is proof it gets a whole lot better.” With that, he gently plucked away at what he called “a collection of stories from my childhood,” impressing the crowd with his subdued croon and instrumentation.
Newer Music Highlights
There were plenty of strong call-and-responses and energetic moments earlier in the set (“Checkmate,” “Overdrive,” and “Affluenza”), but some of the later tracks showcased the full force of Gray’s live band. The anthemic “Little League” was powered by a pulsing drum beat. And his latest single “Jigsaw” impressed with its driving bassline and riff, as well as its crashing drum beat, swerving into pop-punk territory. The audience members swayed their arms in sync with Gray, and cheered and jumped raucously – so much so that the floor shook – as the singer held a soaring sustained note at the end of the track.
Gray winkingly alluded to his imminent (temporary) departure from the stage towards the end of his set in the lead-in to “Maniac”: “Since this is my ‘last song,’ you better give it your all!” The fans responded in kind with a huge singalong. As Gray twirled across the stage and led the fans through the chorus, once again the floor shook from the force of thousands bouncing all at once. After briefly departing the stage, the thunderous cheers of “Co-nan! Co-nan!” beckoned him back. The light display once again parted ways, revealing Gray inside, with a guitar slung across his shoulders. For one more moment, the crowd gave it their all, screaming along to the slow-burning cut “Heather.”