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R&B Star Khalid Brought Love 'Right Back' to San Antonio with Free Spirit Tour 

click to enlarge BRITTANY WAGNER
  • Brittany Wagner
Clad in Texas-flag boots and a Spurs baseball cap, Khalid showed his home state and the Alamo City some love Tuesday night at the AT&T Center.

Performing hits off his sophomore album, Free Spirit, and a generous number of the tunes that launched him into stardom, Khalid's two-hour performance energized the crowd before leaving it breathless. Just a day after posing in front of the world's largest cowboy boots at North Star, the Texas native danced, squatted and twirled his way across the stage in his own pair.

Against a backdrop of dreamy images of his hometown of El Paso's deserts and mountains, the R&B star wasted no time getting to the bops. Opening with "Free Spirit," "8TEEN" and "Twenty One," he proved the breadth of his talent while reflecting on the age difference between creating his first album, American Teen, which he released two years ago at 17, and Free Spirit, which dropped in April.

Over the performance, Khalid segued between slow ballads bathed in blue light and upbeat bangers such as "Better" and "Right Back," which were complemented by neon strobe lights and animated backup dancers.

He introduced "Location," the debut single from American Teen, by calling it one of his favorite songs and adding that it "literally changed my life forever." The album spent 127 weeks on Billboard's top R&B albums chart, peaking at No. 3. "Location" was Billboard's top R&B song for three weeks straight.

Khalid transitioned into "Silence" and "Another Sad Love Song," further hyping up the crowd. Fans in the pit jumped and screamed, while those in the balcony danced in the aisles. The arena swelled with the echoed voices of 12,000 fans singing along, and Khalid drew cheers with each perfectly timed hip thrust and squat.

The singer left the stage for a few minutes to change shirts while a short video featuring Coca-Cola-esque footage of young people hanging out in vintage cars, gave the crowd a chance to catch its breath.

"I mean, making an album, your first album at that, at 17 years old, I feel like I had so much to say then, but I feel like I have way more to say now," Khalid's voice narrated over the video. "I love growing, I love changing my mentality. I feel like that was definitely the process of Free Spirit — it was challenging."

click to enlarge BRITTANY WAGNER
  • Brittany Wagner
The star returned to the stage, wearing a Spurs baseball cap. The arena burst into frenzied cheers as he launched into "Suncity," a love song to El Paso, with Spanish lyrics including, "Llévame a ciudad de sol, llévame donde dejé mi corazón." He followed it with "Winter," a musically upbeat tune with melancholy lyrics about lost love.

Khalid slowed things down with "Coaster," a piano-laced lullaby he crooned for the audience with eyes closed. Stripped of backup dancers and colored lights and illuminated only by a spotlight, Khalid let his unfiltered voice come through, rich and deep, at times heart breaking, and totally unique.

Hopping back to his feet and ditching the stool, Khalid swiftly transitioned into "Talk," one of the hottest songs of this summer, and then to "Outta My Head," an irresistible collab with John Mayer that would get even your most uptight great-aunt to tap her feet.

He ended his performance with "Saturday Nights," a song that draws on some of the same themes covered on American Teen. Listening to Khalid's music, whether at the AT&T Center or sitting in bed, evokes the feeling of driving with the windows down on a warm Texas night. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who left the parking lot with his debut album on shuffle.

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