For the uninitiated, at only eighteen years old, The Kid Laroi (the nom-de-guerre of Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard) has made quite a global impact, made all the more remarkable given his age and the fact he grew up in the poor inner city housing estates of Redfern in Sydney. Now living in LA, he has been nominated for a Grammy and achieved a worldwide number one with ‘Stay’, a collaboration with Justin Bieber.
Howard is proud of his First Nations links: his family from his mother’s side is from the Kamilaroi peoples (hence the name) and his concert in a freezing, wet stormy Hobart opened with a welcoming perfomance from a local First Nations trio. The warmth and reception from the filled-to-capacity stadium was moving.
At the newly built stadium, the atmosphere was electrifying: a DJ set from TJ Mizell (The Kid Laroi’s DJ and the son of Run DMC’s late turntablist Jam Master Jay) saw the audience singing along with gusto to some tunes whose provenance and delights I will confess missed me by a mile.
The Kid Laroi performance was only accompanied by the said DJ, a style that normally fill an indie rocker like myself with fear and loathing. But it is a style that shines a focussed and undimmed light on Howard’s performance – stretching it beyond mere karaoke performance given the evident songwriting craft and the pinpoint perfect delivery.
What I love most about Dark Mofo is its ability to present contrasts in style and taste. After the louche, posturing excesses of Baxter Dury the previous night – testing the bounds of pop commercialism, The Kid Leroi was the polar opposite: exuding a joyous and unrestrained enthusiasm that enraptured the devoted audience. Howard rarely stopped moving: dynamic gravity-defying jumps, hip hopping, striding the stage like a prowling tiger, singing to the audience with an unabashed passion.
The added frisson was Howard himself: completely self effacing and absent of any attitude – at one point he said he couldn’t believe so many people would want to come and see him. I’m not an aficionado of the style of music (hip hop/rap) nor by any means expert, but I am a great admirer of performance, and the beauty of live music of any genre done well is that it enraptures and captivates no matter what your personal tastes are. The Kid Laroi did just that: a sterling and captivating performance from one so young but whose lyrics and delivery speaks to his generation and beyond.
Feature Photograph and Gallery: Arun Kendall