Troye Si­van

One of the few cur­rent male pop stars to put queer­ness at the fore­front, he’s grown con­fi­dent in his own skin

NOW Magazine - - CLUBS & CONCERTS - By NATALIA MANZOCCO

Troye Si­van with Kim PeTraS at Sony Cen­tre, Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 15. Rat­ing­: nnnn

Be­fore Troye Si­van be­longed to the queers, he be­longed to the in­ter­net.

It’s been a break­out year for the 23-year-old singer/song­writer, who’s hit a vein in the pop main­stream with the re­lease of his sopho­more al­bum, Bloom. The buzz around him, no doubt fu­elled by his tal­ent (un­de­ni­able) and

cheek­bones (ridicu­lous), is bol­stered by the fact that he’s one of the few cur­rent male pop stars to put his queer­ness at the fore­front of both his mu­sic and his pub­lic per­sona.

For Si­van, who spent his teen years com­ing up as an enor­mously pop­u­lar YouTu­ber be­fore plac­ing his fo­cus on pop mu­sic, that’s led to a con­sid­er­able shift in de­mo­graph­ics, which was clear to the Aussie singer from the Sony Cen­tre stage.

“The Toronto gays are out in full force,” Si­van told the packed room, ad­ding that the usu­ally ear-pierc­ing crowd (fol­low­ers of the YouTube star sys­tem gen­er­ally skew young and fe­male) has taken on a sig­nif­i­cantly lower tim­bre this tour. “Hear that low ‘woo woo woo’ from the gays? That’s you!” At this, the whole crowd be­gan chant-grunt­ing “WOO WOO WOO” like a coli­seum full of gay orcs.

It’s safe to say that plenty in at­ten­dance had been fol­low­ing Si­van since he was a pouty teen in a Perth bed­room, film­ing tags and skits and mak­ing vul­ner­a­ble vlogs, in­clud­ing a com­ing-out video that gar­nered 8.1 mil­lion views.

And holy cow, has he grown up since then. His coltish stage pres­ence and noo­dle-armed dance moves from the era of his 2015 de­but have been re­placed with struts and hip thrusts, lock­ing eyes with the front row, hand poised just so on the waist­band of his leather jog­gers, leather jacket hang­ing off a pale shoul­der.

It’s the con­fi­dence of some­one who’s grown into their sex­u­al­ity and be­come com­fort­able in their own skin, and Si­van worked ev­ery inch of that gan­gly frame to his ad­van­tage.

Si­van’s ex­plicit queer­ness made his choice of open­ing act, Kim Petras, an in­ter­est­ing foil. Petras’s name might ring a dis­tant bell: she made head­lines in her na­tive Ger­many and around the world for her fight to tran­si­tion as a pre-teen.

In the years since, she’s been hus­tling to build a pop ca­reer, cul­ti­vat­ing a bold, bratty im­age and a bub­bly Italo-disco-in­flu­enced sound. While she’s be­come pop­u­lar with a queer au­di­ence, Petras takes a less spe­cific ap­proach to her mu­sic and im­age, keep­ing things light, frothy and apo­lit­i­cal. That’s un­der­stand­able (trans peo­ple aren’t just their transness; and truly, what early-20-some­thing wants to re­hash a thing that hap­pened when they were 14?) but that apo­lit­i­cal stance also re­cently landed her in hot wa­ter after mak­ing, then walk­ing back, pos­i­tive com­ments about Dr. Luke, who pro­duced her big­gest hit, I Don’t Want It At All.

For her part, Petras de­liv­ered ex­actly what she set out to do dur­ing her short set: Fun, sparkly jams about tri­fling suit­ors and de­signer threads, built for arena-strength sin­ga­longs.

Petras was a lit­tle ham­pered by the big red cur­tain that cor­doned off Si­van’s stage setup, but she (along with her ever-flail­ing DJ) did what she could with the nar­row space, strut­ting and stomp­ing and whip­ping out the odd dance move be­tween im­pres­sive belt notes.

Si­van’s head­lin­ing set felt more epic by sev­eral mag­ni­tudes, com­plete with four-piece band neon light­ing rig. His pop-star charisma is get­ting ever more honed, and the set’s pac­ing and the per­for­mances from Si­van and his band were tight, but the show still felt in­ti­mate, with plenty of back-and- forth with the au­di­ence – credit those YouTu­ber roots.

Dur­ing a break, he pulled a fan on­stage who had worn her own bud­get ver­sion of Si­van’s red Valentino suit from the Met Gala: “I love that I could have just gone to Zara,” he dead­panned. Later, a fan of­fered up a denim jacket painstak­ingly hand-painted with a por­trait of Si­van and fes­tooned with LED lights, which he glee­fully flung on for a ju­bi­lant per­for­mance of WILD. Another fan se­cretly passed out pink pa­per hearts for oth­ers to hold up over their cell­phone lights dur­ing Post­card, and Si­van wasted no time in hunt­ing down the perp: “Who the hell or­ga­nized that? You? How? Did you awk­wardly speak to ev­ery­one in here and get them to do it? It took you 12 hours to cut them out?”

It’s clear that Si­van draws en­ergy and in­spi­ra­tion from his largely queer fan base. He said he wrote the ten­der An­i­mal while imag­in­ing him­self singing it to peo­ple around the world: “I wish you could see what I see ev­ery night – the cutest shit,” he said. “It com­pletely changed what this song means to me.”

But I didn’t get choked up. That hap­pened ear­lier, when ev­ery­one in the crowd, my­self in­cluded, was bel­low­ing along to com­ing-out bal­lad Heaven (“If I’m los­ing a piece of me / Maybe I don’t want heaven”) – and then again, when the back­drop lit up, piece by piece, in the blaz­ing colours of the Pride flag. na­tal­iam@nowtoronto.com | @na­tal­ia­man­zocco

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