November 12 at Spark Arena in Auckland bought long-awaited fans of multitalented Conan Gray the show they’ve all been waiting for. In an almost packed-out space, the atmosphere was warm and electric and provided a night of music that nobody would forget anytime soon.
Conan’s been well known to many for a long time, having made his start on YouTube as a teenager before signing with Republic Records in 2018. Since then, releases have included the melancholy yet hopeful EP Sunset Season, his debut album Kid Krow, and the most recent drop, the multifaceted, emotional Superache album. Having received critical acclaim and arriving in the top 10 in multiple countries, the aforementioned most recent is the one on which this tour was based. And my god – it was a show that did not disappoint.
Opening for Conan was the indie pop band There’s a Tuesday. They lit up the stage with their recognizable and catchy tunes before the main event, causing widespread excitement and a slow hype build across their thirty-minute set.
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Arriving on stage in leather, sporting his long trademark waves, Conan launched straight into the evening’s opener, ‘Disaster.’ Many of Conan’s tunes focus primarily on the experiences of romance, heartbreak and the associated emotions, and ‘Disaster’ served as a powerful beginning. Effortlessly harmonizing in a voice that captivated every attendee, the lyrics of ‘what if you freak out and we lose it all at the critical chapter’ echoed through the crowd. Next came ‘Telepath’, one of the young singer’s most popular tracks. Not one from Superache, it proved that this audience were long-time Conan fans, who chanted every powerful lyric back with a resonating force. With a seamless transition, another Kid Krow moment arose with the following ‘Fight or Flight.’ An ode to the well-known genetic instinct humans get in tense situations; it’s a track that music critics have described as both ‘melodramatic’ and ‘super chaotic.’ Anyone watching certainly would have gotten this impression, as the crowd chanted and danced under the shimmering, interchanging coloured lights.
‘The Exit’ came up next – which I had assumed would be the last song based on the title, but this was another of my wildly off-the-mark musical predictions. The finale track for Superache as mentioned earlier, the song is a summing up of heartache and realizations when you watch your person move on, particularly as you’re not ready for them at that moment. One of Superache’s Julia Michaels collaborations, Julia likened it to a diary entry full of emotion and vulnerability. The vulnerability didn’t last long, as the poppy, dancey scream-worthy track ‘Wish You Were Sober’ quickly shattered the heart-wrenching aura that had descended on the crowd with the previous song. Fans yelled back at Conan, the undeniably catchy chorus, an almost vibratory, Mexican sound wave of ‘real sweet but I wish you were sooooober’. There was obviously some resonance there for the audience.
At least for me, one of the evening’s highlights was our setlist track 7, ‘Best Friend.’ Posing the question of the audience, asking who was there with a friend, hands raised around the arena in unison, shooting into the air like stars while he began singing, and people started hugging each other at his request. It was warm, and intimate, and it felt like Conan himself was hugging you as he dedicated the track to all the pals out there with this stray away from his usual focus on romantic themes.
Moving onto track 8, we received the brutal yearning emotions that comes with ‘People Watching.’ An earnest piece that encapsulates seeing the experiences of others and feeling like you’re on the exterior looking through shiny glass windows, the energy was intense. With the rhythmic ‘The Story’ coinciding with the following ‘Footnote,’ the power within the arena swung from melancholy to heartrending to hopeful like a musical pendulum. Still, the harmonizing from the audience never took a moment to become any less mesmerized and enthralled at once.
Kiki Rockwell – Madeline
We all knew it was coming at some point and track 14 indeed brought the gut-wrenching, childhood-inspired song ‘Family Line.’ It’s a soft ballad filled with sorrow that Conan has described to Genius as being ‘deeply personal,’ detailing his upbringing and familial relationships growing up in musical form. With lyrics including ‘how could you hurt a little kid’ and ‘I can run, but I can’t hide / from my family line’, I would be surprised if there was a dry eye in the house during the compelling dynamic rendition.
Next came the softer, more romantic ‘Movies.’ It’s Superache’s opening track and one that visualizes an idealistic, almost unachievable love – the type that films portray. It’s a love that fails to meet expectations and sets up the narrative for Superache’s primary themes of love turned sour aptly. Conan goes from singing ‘I want a love like the movies’ to ‘you already found someone to miss’, and it’s an accurate charting of a painful relationship. We then got ‘Overdrive’ followed by the revengeful, manipulative ‘Checkmate,’ a dance track for the ages and an older one, also off Kid Krow. ‘Jigsaw’ then played, with the crowd going wild for the cryptic, energetic words.
The second half brought more of Conan’s super well-known music to light, with a high-intensity duo formed by the performance of hit ‘Heather’ followed by ‘Maniac,’ his initially perceived final onstage moment. ‘Heather’ was both a commercial hit and a Tiktok trend on its first release, and fans proved that they still adore this boppy piece that oozes jealousy and a desire to be the one in the center of your crush’s affections.
Bookending the show’s second half, after screams of fans and rhythmic clapping filled the arena, we got the real final song, ‘Memories.’ The atmosphere felt excitable and wistful at this expected, yet moving, encore and Conan took a moment to promise the legion of attendees that we’ll get a full second performance another time soon – if only so he can return to Piha. Either way, I hope we will witness Conan again quickly here in Aotearoa, for it is clear that he is well on his path to dominative superstardom – and what a comet he is.