On April 7th 2022, I attended my first concert since pre-pandemic times which was the Conan Gray concert at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The last concert I had been to at the theatre had been Troye Sivan in 2018, another YouTuber turned pop sensation. The air of excitement with this return to live performances was definitely palpable amongst the crowd gathered before the performance. The majority of the crowd was filled with young people and some parents who graciously stood in line for merch. At some point, I heard some girls behind me mention how happy they were to just “dress up to go out”, and it was evident other people were feeling the same by the way they were decked out in bold patterns and colourful pieces. I had already received one “I like your fit!” compliment, so I felt extra confident in my outfit choice for that night.
The opener of the night was bülow, who I knew from her song “Sweet Little Lies”. I unfortunately missed her performance because it started too early for the night, and I was stuck in the never-ending merch line. With a stroke of luck, my friend and I got our merch and made it to our seats just in time to hear Conan open with “Wish You Were Sober”.
Throughout the night, the stage transformed numerous times with cool lighting tricks, aesthetic background videos, and Conan’s bedroom set. The bedroom set made it feel like Conan was welcoming us into his room (reminiscent of his YouTube days) where he wrote all of his songs. Welcoming us into his “bedroom” like friends, he sang “Astronomy”. He also sang “Comfort Crowd”, which he wrote for his best friend. It encompasses this feeling of being with someone who you can be completely comfortable around. After the song, Conan asked people who came with a friend to give their friend a hug. For those who didn’t, he said he would be their friend and sent them all an air hug.
With the mix of songs and chatting to the audience, the concert truly felt like a chat with a friend. He read one sign from the audience that asked, “Who hurt you?” to which he replied, “me”. Amidst the pop and happiness taking place, he also warned us that he was about to get real for a moment, sharing how depressed he was during his rough childhood. While he was so fed up with people telling him that it would get better, he shares, “and then it did— and I think this night is proof that we can have these amazing moments.” This energy was shared throughout the crowd, with people screaming their support. I knew that I was having a great time and thought of how happy he looked as well, jumping and singing on stage.
Moments like these in the concert allowed the audience to pause, reflect, and truly be present. Though we had rushed to our seats, the hug gave me a moment to thank my friend for being there with me. Conan’s words also made me realise how I had barely let myself get excited for the concert amidst the stress of other responsibilities. I truly appreciated these check-ins Conan added and how he reminded us that “you, as you are now, are completely deserving of love”. With everyone in their feels, he then proceeded to go into the tearjerker of the night—“The Story”, which shares this hope for things getting better as “it’s not the end of the story”. Conan then ended the night by coming back for an encore with the TikTok viral song “Heather”, dressed in a navy kilt and sweater vest.
I later concluded that the reason the show actually started earlier that night was so Conan could later sing a duet with his bestie, Olivia Rodrigo at her concert, which was the same night. My friend and I watched a video of them singing Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away” on the train ride home, sent from the girl who had actually sold us her Conan tickets so she could attend Olivia’s concert. It felt like a very full circle moment, and fans were ecstatic. The two singers share similar themes of love, loss, and identity through their music that can be described as angsty pop-rock. With this similarity, they have many shared fans who find their music very cathartic to listen and sing along to.
That was the best night I had in a while. Conan’s performance cemented just how special live performances are— with this feeling of unity between the artist and audience— and just how much I had missed them.